With the art industry fully embracing the digital life, it is no surprise the big auction houses have been hosting online sales… earlier this month, Sotheby’s offered a selection of European Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture (though most were paintings) – I have to be honest, I was not too hopeful given everything going on, but it went better than I expected!
The top lot was Guillaume Seignac’s Love’s Offering at $68,750 on a $30-40K estimate… according to the condition report provided by Sotheby’s, the large canvas was relined with wax to consolidate cracking throughout. It also had extensive restoration to the central figure’s face, right arm, and dress, as well as other various retouchings… in other words, it was a wreck. I assume this benefitted from the fact that this was an online sale, and the bidders, more than likely, did not see the work in person. The number two lot was the biggest surprise of the bunch… Henri Leopold Levy’s Le Phoenix was offered without a reserve and a $3-5K estimate. After more than 60 bids were placed, the winner paid $52,500 – more than 10 times the high estimate! This work was relined and “in good condition aside from craquelure and pigment separation.” Oh, and had a 1 inch loss extending from the lower edge. Also, under UV, the work is “heavily obscured by a green-fluorescing varnish, though scattered dots of retouching were visible”… I guess we have different opinions of “good condition.” Rounding out the top 3 was another impressive performer – Edwin Long’s The Ionian Pottery Seller, which found a buyer at $40K on a $12-18K estimate. Another relined canvas, though there is not much more information in the condition report that is notable – again, this work presents with a heavy fluorescent varnish under UV, so perhaps there was a more necessary need for the relining than is initially apparent.
There were a couple of other lots that significantly outperformed their estimates… a work by George Stanfield estimated at $4-6K, and an Arthur Wardle estimated at $5-7K, both found buyers at $23,750.
All that said, only 13 works failed to sell of the 64 works being offered, or 79.6% – as crazy as it sounds, that is a decent sell-through rate for European Painting sales. Additionally, the sale totaled $668.8K on an overall estimate of $523-761K, so they hit their mark! Let’s see if they can do it next time in the real world.