Earlier this week over in London, Sotheby’s offered up a selection of Impressionist and Modern works in a compact evening sale consisting of just 36 lots… let’s just get it out of the way now as it is going to become apparent fairly quickly – the sale did not go well.
Taking the top spot on the night was Picasso’s Buste de femme de profil (Femme ecrivant), which came in with an irrevocable 3rd party guarantee… the work sold on a single bid (likely to the guarantor) for just £27.3M ($36M), which was well short of Sotheby’s unpublished £34M ($45M) estimate. In a distant second was a wiry bronze cat by Giacometti – this is an interesting one – the work last sold not too long ago in 2010 for $21M… the same work was set to be auctioned this past May in New York but was withdrawn from the sale and carried a $20M estimate – so the owner already knew he wasn’t going to get his money out of this one, though I’m not sure he expected things to go the way they did. This time around, with an unpublished estimate, the work found a buyer at just £12.6M ($16.7M including premiums)… that’s rough. Rounding out the top three was another underperformer… Monet’s La Mediterranee par vent de mistral, expected to bring between £6.5-8.5M, hammered at £6.3M… once you factor in the premium, that bumps the lot to £7.1M but still relatively disappointing for one of the top lots in the sale… Even the 4th highest lot of the evening fell short – Picasso’s Le peintre et son modele sold for just £6.4M with premium ($8.5M) though it was projected to sell between £7.5-9.5M.
As I’m sure you can imagine from these results alone, the sale was uninspiring. To make matters worse, 10 of the 36 lots failed to sell (72% sell-through rate), so it was a pretty tough evening. The remaining 26 lots that found buyers yielded a total of £87.5M ($115.7M) which was quite a bit short of the expected take of £99.7-124.6M… and when we’re reminded that the sale total includes premiums, and the estimate range does not, it really drives home the fact that this sale performed pretty miserably. Just for the sake of comparison, the same sale in 2017 brought in £128M with 17 lots, and in 2016 they brought in £103M on 24 lots. Let’s hope the London trend turns around quickly.