I think we can all agree that right now not only is crude oil hot, but that the ‘right’ oil painting is not just HOT, but is SMOKIN! At $104,168,000 Picasso’s oil painting - Garçon à la Pipe - currently holds the record for a work of art sold at auction (that’s $82,936.30 per square inch for those who needed to know). What is even more amazing is that it has been reported that Mr. & Mrs. Whitney paid about $30,000 for it in 1950 – nice return on the investment!
By mid month, the two main auction rooms in New York had sold over $600 million in art and by the end of the month the total was close to $700 million. In the end, the recent auctions in New York produced numerous sizzling results:
In the 19th century European arena, where one of the hottest areas is Russian art, works by Makovsky, Arkhipov, Klever, Aivasovsky, and Harlamoff sold in the $100,000 - $1 million range. Just to give you a couple of examples of how hot this market has gotten in the last few years, J. S. von Klever’s painting Through the Woods, which sold at auction in 2001 for $8,400, just resold this April for $96,000; and works by K. A. Korovin – an artist who painted Paris street scenes in a style reminiscent of Cortes and Blanchard and could be purchased regularly in the $8,000 - $12,000 range in the late 90s – are now selling in the $40,000 - $250,000 range. This type of ‘spike’ has been seen before in other segments of the 19th century market – Scandinavian art for example – and, at some point, things will cool down.
Of course, there are other hot spots in the 19th century realm – Alfred Munnings’ painting The Red Prince Mare sold for a record $7.85 million; Theodore Rousseau’s large Soleil Couchant sur les Sables du Jean-de-Paris made an auction record of $551,000; Jean A.D. Ingres’ The Virgin with the Crown – not one of the more commercial images – brought $926,000; J.A. Grimshaw’s Autumn Gold brought $422,000; and Giovanni Boldini’s Portrait of Luis and Pedro Subercaseaux brought $796,000.
In the Impressionist and Modern arena, Tamara de Lempicka’s 1929 portrait of Mrs. Rufus Bush sold for $4.1 million; Giorgio de Chirico’s, Il grande metafisico, 1917 sold for $6.4 million; Monet’s Le basin aux nymphéas sold for $16.8 million (while not a record for the artist, this was an auction record for a water lilies); Balthus' Golden Afternoon fetched a record $3.8 million; Frédéric Bazille's Pot de Fleurs sold for a record $5.3 million; and William Blake’s The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child, a 17 x 24 inch monotype and one of the few remaining in private hands, made an auction record -$3.1 million.
Turning our attention to the Contemporary market, well … it is not only hot, but looks like it is on fire -- with one of the evening auctions boasting a 100% sold rate (a very rare occurrence in the auction world). Among the fiery results it looks like Jackson Pollack is red hot --- a record $11.65 million was paid for a small drip painting (31 x 22 ½ inches) titled Number 12, 1949. Other hot ‘numbers’ included Mark Rothko’s No. 15 -- $8.9 million; Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Napoleonic stereotype circa '44 -- $1.4 million; David Smith’s Little Albany IX -- $900,000; Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #73 -- $2.14 million; Ellsworth Kelly’s Chatham XIII: Yellow red - EK 464 (in 2 parts) -- $2.9 million; and Clyfford Still’s 1960-f coming in at a record $3.14 million.
I should also mention that Jeff Koons’ Jim Beam J.B. Turner Train made $5.94 million – a new auction record; Andy Warhol’s Self-Portrait, from1967, fetched $6.95 million; Ed Ruscha’s Damage made a record $3.59 million; and Maurizio Cattelan’s The Ballad of Trotsky (1996), a taxidermied horse hanging in a leather sling from the ceiling made a record $2.08 million – need some really high ceilings to properly display that one! You may remember that in Volume 30 I noted that Cattelan’s stuffed rabbit sold for $399,500. I think we can begin to see a trend and this may be good news for all you hunters out thereJ. One final point about The Ballad of Trotsky, it has been reported that the seller bought it in 2001 for $875,000!
Moving to the American market … things are still burning up as evidenced by the portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale that made $6,167,500, a world auction record for a work by the artist (this same work sold in France last year for about $5 million). Other highlights include Maurice Prendergast’s Courtyard, West Library, Boston, a 14 x 20 inch watercolor that sold for $2.13 million; John Frederick Kensett’s View of Mount Washington made $847,500, another auction record; John Singer Sargent’s 20 x 24 inch portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson sold for $8.8 million to Steve Wynn; Sargent’s Venetian Loggia made $5.6 million; Childe Hassam’s Sailing on Calm Seas, Gloucester Harbor sold for $1.1 million; Severin Roesen’s Still Life with Flowers and Fruit sold for an auction record $1.57 million; and John F. Kensett’s On the Coast, Beverly Shore, Mass. made an auction record $988,000.
What’s Not Hot --- To begin with, due to crude oils hotness, long leisurely drives in your SUV are not very hot and I can personally vouch for the fact that that the stock market is a bit on the chilly, not chili, side! Over the years I have used one of my accounts in comparison to the art market, and while things looked good at the beginning of the year – up almost 9% in the first few months - right now it is basically IN THE RED! Oh well, looks like I will be working well into my golden yearsL.
Furthermore, I can happily report that in the 19th century European realm, many of the works offered in the recent New York auctions that had condition problems, were bad examples, or were ambitiously estimated were definitely not hot. Many had trouble selling; leaving one auction with a failure rate of almost 45%. However, there are always exceptions and as usual, some of the ‘poor quality’ works did find buyers; a stellar example was F. Kaemmerer’s The Wedding Procession. This painting had been laid down on a board, was over-cleaned and had large areas of restoration, but still managed to sell for $72,000! – It just makes me want to cry.
This fairly healthy trend continued in the 19th century American painting market where the overpriced, poor quality, works were also not too hot and both auction rooms had trouble selling them -- an excellent sign for this market as well.
While it would have given me great pleasure to have reported that, what I would classify as, the poor quality works being offered in the Impressionist sales were not hot, I just cannot. I witnessed, first hand, many of these works sell, and some for strong prices. There were even a good number of works that were purchased just for the signature (poor quality, but done by ‘the’ artist). When this market cools off, and it will, the buyers of these works are not going to be very happy. In my opinion, buying works for a ‘signature’ is never a ‘hot’ thing to do!
You might ask – why is it that these poor quality works sell? There are three possible answers. The first is that the buyers knew of the problems and bought the work/works for the subject matter – not a wise investment choice, but at least these people walked in with their eyes wide open. The next two answers are a bit more troublesome. The first of these being that the buyer/buyers had no idea that the work/works were ‘poor’ examples; and the second is ‘name recognition’.
If you are a buyer/collector and have a modest budget, you are going to be hard pressed to find a strong example of a major artist’s work that will fall within your comfort range – especially in the Impressionist market. So, what do you do? The smart collector will move to another artist, but there are many individuals who get caught up in ‘name recognition’ and will chase after a minor work by a major artist just so they can say that they have a ‘so-and-so’. If, as we see in that market today, you have a fairly large group of individuals who fall into this category and each of them is chasing after the same group of artists, the results are inevitable … the junk is going to sell!
As many of you know, I am a firm believer in the idea that if you are going to collect works of art, whatever the period may be, you need to buy the best quality, best condition, best period and best subject matter a particular artist has to offer.
Remember, that when it is time for you to sell your works you want them to be considered ‘HOT’, regardless of the market’s temperature!
At the Dahesh Museum
The Art of Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ
Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ (1842-1923) derived his subjects primarily from classical history, the Bible, and his own travels to Egypt, Morocco, and Romania. Through these themes, he visualized a chronologically distant past and a geographically distant present. Lecomte du Nouÿ enjoyed several undisputed triumphs at the Salon and consciously avoided modernism, sustaining instead the beau idéal, the traditional sense of beauty closely tied to a high degree of finish and empirical realism. His oeuvre provides a fascinating case study of 19th-century academic art, especially because he was so widely discussed by critics in his own day. For most of the twentieth century, however, he was forgotten, yet the extraordinary visual power of many of his works has rendered him increasingly relevant in the post-modern era. To be presented only at the Dahesh (June 22 – September 19, 2004), this retrospective of more than 100 paintings, oil sketches, and drawings will encompass almost all of Lecomte du Nouÿ’s located works.
Sally Swatland Update
One of Sally's most recently sold paintings - Newport Surf - has been chosen by the American Society of Marine Artists for their 11th Annual Art Exhibit which will be held at the Coos Art Museum, Coos Bay, OR from July 23 - September 25, 2004.
Howard L. Rehs
© Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City – June 2004
Gallery Updates: Please remember that for the month of June the gallery’s hours are Monday – Thursday from 10am – 5:30pm. We have also added new works by Leon Perrault, Gregory Harris, Sally Swatland, Edouard Cortès and Antoine Blanchard to our web site.
Virtual Exhibitions: Our biography upgrade is in full swing and by the end of this summer we hope have close to 200 available. New bios on Corot, Ribot, Ouvrié, Piot and Troyon have been posted.
Since our last update we have sold a number of paintings by many of our favorite artists including Swatland, Dupré, Corot, Ribot, d' Entraygues, Harris, and Cortès. Images of most of these works have been added to their respective Virtual Exhibitions.
Next Month: I am working on a few interesting topics.