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American Art – Christie’s

August 31, 2020
faces of two young girls

Mary Cassatt’s Two Little Sisters

More than a month later (August 7th), Christie’s presented their American painting sale … and overall, this one was far less successful.

sculpture of woman

Elie Nadelman’s Kneeling Dancer

The most expensive lot in the sale was Mary Cassatt’s Two Little Sisters that brought $420K ($519 w/p – est. $400-600K) – it was also the lot with the highest estimate. Taking the number two position were two lots: Elie Nadelman’s Kneeling Dancer (est $350-550K) and Nicolai Fechin’s Abuelo (est$120-180K) each bringing $200K ($250K w/p). As you will note, the Nadelman came in well below its estimate while the Fechin went over). Third place was captured by Willard Metcalf’s Green Idleness at $190K ($237.5K w/p – est. $200-300K).

picture of an old man with glasses

Nicolai Fechin’s Abuelo

Rounding out the top five were Elie Nadleman’s Head of a Woman at $175K ($212.5K w/p – est. $20-300K), and there was a tie for 5th with Nicolai Fechin’s Amoset (est. $150-250K) and James McNeill Whistler’s St. Ives: The Beach (est. $80-120K) each bringing $140K ($175K w/p).

Among the works that did not find buyers were Farny’s Mountain Pass (est. $300-500K), Prendergast’s Ponte Gianbattista-Gallucioli (est. $200-300K), and Milton Avery’s Lavender Beach (est. $100-150K).

By the end, of the 87 works offered, 65 found buyers (74.7% – pretty close to the Sotheby’s sale), and the total take was $3.97M w/p (far less than the competition). The low end of the presale estimate range was $4.45M, so they fell well short of expectations.

One of the biggest difference between the two sales were the level of art offered. Sotheby’s had very few inexpensive lots – only 5 with estimates below $30K, while the Christie’s sale had 47 lots below $30k. When it came to the American works, Sotheby’s was the clear winner.