Then there were a number of sales that took place in Europe – again, all lower to mid-level. On April 10th Christie’s, Paris, offered an Old Master and 19th century works on paper sale that brought in €1.97M ($2.57M) with the top lot being a pair of Paris scenes by Jean-Thomas Thibault, done in 1799, that made €187,500 ($246K – est. €12-€18K) – that seller was happy.
On the 15th they followed up with an Old Master and 19th century painting sale. The total take here was €5.1M ($6.7M) and the top lot was Charles Le Brun’s Le Sacrifice de Polyxene at €1.44M ($1.9M - est. €300-€500K) which was discovered in a suite used by Coco Chanel at the Hotel Ritz, Paris – it was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
Two days later their London office offered a lower level Post-War and Contemporary Art sale which made £2.3M ($3.53M). Top work here was a Judit Reigl titled Outburst, from 1956, which made £134K ($205K – est. £5-£7K) – another happy seller!
As you can tell, even if you add up the total results from all 4 of these sales (about $17M) they only reach the value of one nice Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild painting (not even a really great one since those have made over $30M) … gotta love the art market and the prices people will pay for certain things!!
On the 23rd, Sotheby’s offered a very slim and trim sale of Orientalist paintings and the results were impressive. Taking the top position here was Ludwig Deutsch’s The Offering which made £2.2M ($3.3M - est. £500-£700K) – this was an auction record for the artist. In second was Corrodi’s The Fountain of the Sweet Waters… at £519K ($792K – est £200-£300K) – another auction record; and in third was Pasini’s Market Day at £483K ($737K – est £400-£600K).
When the sale ended, of the 22 lots offered, 19 sold (86.4%) and the total take was £6.34M ($9.7M) --- the presale estimate was £2.6-£3.8M, so they blew by that one. This sale was a great example of what I have been stressing for years … if you trim down the sales and offer just the best, you will be well rewarded.
At the end of the month Christie’s presented their main 19th century European painting sale in NYC. When the catalog arrived I immediately noticed it was very thin and my first thought was: nice, a slim and trim sale. After skimming through the catalog it became obvious that sourcing material is getting more and more difficult. Now do not get me wrong, there were a few interesting looking works (from the photos that is), but the overall impression was not a very strong one. Look, we all know that art has become another ‘investment vehicle’ and less and less really good work is coming to the market … families are just holding on since they know that in the long run, many of the works they own will become more valuable. Anyway, let’s get on with why we are here --- the results!
The sale took place on Monday and the top selling work was Lhermitte’s The Little Goose Girl… which made $508K (est. $400-$600K – this same work sold last in 2003 for $266K ... not bad). In second was Munnings The Whip which made $484K (est. $400-$600K) and in third was a Corot at $304K (est. $250-$350K … this one last sold in 2004 for $209K).
I think you can begin to see that with the highest price painting reaching just $500K, this sale had some issues – the main one being, almost 45% of the works did not sell! There were two paintings by Bouguereau which had fairly hefty estimates, for what they were, and both failed to find buyers – Les deux soeurs ($1.8-$2.8M) and Reverie sur le seuil ($1 - $1.5M) and there were other big name artists whose works just did not hold up to the price range; these included Courbet, Millet, Corot, de Nittis, Jakobides, Munnings, Flint, Stevens, Koekkoek, etc.
In the end, of the 76 works offered only, 42 sold (55%) and the total take was $4.2M (ugh) --- they were expecting at least $9.92M (double ugh)! It is important to realize that this sale says very little about the general state of the 19th century art market and more about the offerings in this particular sale … high estimates on certain works, issues with condition and, at times, not the best subject matter plagued this sale. The message one gets is that you better have really great works if you are going for big numbers.
Howard L. Rehs
© Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York - May 2013
Gallery Updates: The works from The BIG Gamble are coming down and we will be hanging the gallery with a nice selection of 19th century paintings.
Web Site Updates: A good deal of art made its way to new homes this past month; among them were paintings by Brunery, Knight, Jahn, O’Neill, Davenport, Drake, Davis, Hourigan, Reynolds, Brady, Long, Bauer, Koeppel & Wood. In addition, a number of new pieces have been added to the site.
Next Month: The BIG sales are coming!