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Sotheby’s: Art of Travel and Exploration – A Really Hard Lesson

December 19, 2018
Francois Musin "HMS Resolute in Search of Sir John Franklin"

Francois Musin “HMS Resolute in Search of Sir John Franklin”

The market’s flood continued with Sotheby’s, London, presenting two sales on the 13th of December.  First up was a small one they call Art of Travel and Exploration.  Why they needed to break these out into a standalone sale is still a mystery to me; however, since the results were so bad maybe they will rethink the idea (all prices, unless noted, include the buyer’s premium).

Isaac Israels "Seated Javanese Dancers"

Isaac Israels “Seated Javanese Dancers”

As I mentioned, this was a small sale – just 35 lots. In addition, two were withdrawn, so it left them with just 33.  In the number one spot was a very nice Arctic scene by Francois Musin titled HMS Resolute in Search of Sir John Franklin that made £100K/$127K (est. £80-120).  In case you are wondering, they never found Sir Franklin and some of the timbers from the ship were eventually used to make The Resolute Desk, which is in the White House.  In second, Isaac Israels’ Seated Javanese Dancers brought £88K/$110K (est. £80-120K) — one of four paintings by the artist in the sale; the others went unsold.  In third was David Shepherd’s Under the Baobab at £40K/$51K (est. £20-30K) – the seller bought the work back in 2012 for £22.5K/$35K.

David Shepherd’s Under the Baobab

David Shepherd’s Under the Baobab

Sadly, that was just about all the action they would see.  By the end of the sale, of the 33 works offered only ten sold (30% sell-through rate), and the total take was a mere £372K/$471K – the low end of their presale estimate was 985K.  Yikes! The top three paintings accounted for 61% of the sale’s total, and as for their accuracy rate, it came in at about 18% (only six lots sold within their range).  You can see, this one missed the mark – by a long shot.

There are still far too many sales taking place.  Please repeat after me — Less is More, Less is More!