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Christie’s Impressionist & Modern Day Sale – Not Enough Meat!

October 12, 2020
woman seated in a chair


On October 8th, Christie’s held their Impressionist & Modern Day Sale, and I am sure they were not very happy with the end result.  I have said this before, the auction rooms are flooding the market with material … some good, some bad, and some just downright ugly.  There is only so much the market can absorb at any given time, and cramming so many sales together is not going to be a good thing … both for the overall market, and the owners of the works that do not sell.

face of a young girl


Coming in first was Henri Matisse’s Jeune fille assise, robe jaune.  This rather sketchy image of a woman in a chair carried a $700-$1M estimate (one of the highest in the sale) and hammered at $880K ($1.086M w/p).  I can think of a lot more attractive works one can buy for far less money these days.  Taking second was a very small (12 x 10 inches) Pierre Renoir, Coco au ruban rose, that was estimated at $400-600K and hammered at $700K ($870K w/p).  Hopefully, one day, I will understand why people pay so much for so little.  Guess it is all about the ‘name’?  In third was Maurice de Vlaminck’s Nature morte au compotier that fell short of its $700-$1M estimate when it sold for $550K ($688K w/p).

fruit on a table


Rounding out the top five were another Matisse, this time a drawing that was expected to sell in the $150-200K range and hammered at $380K ($475K w/p), and Barbara Hepworth’s small bronze titled Six Forms on a Circle that also beat its estimate of $250-350K when it hammered down at $360K ($450K w/p).

There were some lots that performed rather well, these included Vlaminck’s Pont de Nogent at $200K ($250K w/p – est. $100-150K), and Valtat’s Jardin fleuri à Choisel (circa 1930) at $150K ($188K w/p – est. $40-60K … it is also interesting to note that this same painting failed to sell at Doyle in November 2019 with a $70-100K estimate and dated circa 1918).  Guess the change of venue, a lower estimate, and later circa date was the key?

A number of the pricier works that failed to find takers included a bronze by Marino Marini (est. $250-350K), a Chagall gouache  (est. $250-350K), a Matisse landscape (est. $300-400K), a Caillebotte ($250-450K), Sisley’s Le chemin montant (est. $600-800K), a bronze by Aristide Maillol (est. $400-600K), and another gouache by Chagall – La chèvre bleue – (est. $400-600K).

By the end of the session, of the 110 works offered, 73 sold (66.4% sell-through rate), and the total take was $7.77M ($9.7M w/p) … well below the $11.16M low end of their estimate range.  Basically, 1 out of every 3 lots did not sell, and the total hammer price was 31% below expectations.  We also saw 26 lots sell below, 24 within, and 23 above their estimate ranges.  This left them with an accuracy rate of 32.9%, which was not too bad.

Have no fear, there are many more sales that we will be covering this month!