Before I begin my Art Market update I want to remind all of our readers that when the art market is going strong, and the news is filled with reports of millions of dollars being made, many people decide that the art market is the place to be and ‘new’ art galleries spring up everywhere. Before you buy from any art gallery, it is important to learn something about their history. When was their gallery established? How long has the current owner been in the business? Have they ever owned another gallery? If so, what happened to it? What sort of expertise do they have? Are they known in the art world? Are the works they offer, prime examples of the particular artist’s work?
During these strong cycles, almost anyone who rents a public space and hangs some artwork on the wall will find a buyer. Problems begin when the market slows down and those ‘new’ galleries find it difficult, if not impossible, to sell works; they quickly close. If you bought a work from one of those galleries and an issue arises, you will find that there is little, or no, recourse — sadly, you will be stuck.
We have seen this happen in the past and I know we will see it happen in the future. Try not to be one of the unlucky ones … a little homework can go a long way to protect your art assets.
Art Market Update
This month I will focus on some art market highlights during the past few months:
In the world of 19th century art, one of our favorites, here are several interesting results from the recent sales in New York and once again it appears to have been a case of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!
Among the Good – Sir A.J. Munnings’ Gypsies on Epsom Downs, Derby Week brought $4.1 million; William Bouguereau’s Le Gouter made $1.3 million (last time around – October 2000 - it made $720,000); Edwin Lord Weeks’ Interior of La Torre des Infantas, brought $520,000 (the last time this work appeared on the public market was in 1981 when it sold for $6,500); Ludwig Deutsch’s The Palace Guard sold for $1.64 million (this work last appeared on the market in 1983 and sold for $125,000); Jean B.C. Corot’s small (13 ¼ x 18 ¾ inch) L’abrevoir; vue prise prés des ramparts…fetched $374,400, his 18 x 23 inch Le faggot attendu brought $475,200 and his large, 26 x 32 inch, Brume matinale au marais commanded $800,000; Isidor Kaufmann’s tiny Portrait of a Boy brought a healthy $497,600; Federico del Campo’s The Grand Canal, Venice brought $318,000 (it last sold in London in 2001 where it brought $152,000); Edouard Cortes’ early snow scene of La Porte St. Denis brought $74,400.
Among the Bad – Edouard Cortes’ really late 1960s Place St Martin made $38,400 while his somewhat late 1960s Rue Royale made $50,400 … even in his late period, a few years can make a big difference; William A. Bouguereau’s L’Italien a la mandoline, which had serious condition issues, found a buyer at $120,000; Jean B.C. Corot’s small (10 x 16 inch), unfinished and over-cleaned Plamque, prés Douai-Le Moulin Brulé sold for $108,000; and Daniel Ridgway Knight’s over-cleaned, pigment separated, Les laveuses brought $296,000.
Among the Ugly (ugly images, condition and/or estimates) – David Roberts’ rather large and unattractive Ruins of the Great Temple at Kranak ($2.5 - $3.5 million estimate) saw no takers; William A. Bouguereau’s really late La Vague painted in 1901 and dated 1903 carried a hefty $800,000 - $1,200,000 estimate and failed to sell; Jean B.C. Corot’s optimistically estimated ($1.3 - $1.5 million) 15 x 24 inch Mornex-au Fond, le Môle is being returned to its owner; Emile Munier’s A Young Girl with a Sprig of Berries which was completely repainted failed to find a buyer; and Ridgway Knight’s late (1921) and poorly painted Soir d’Automne carried an absurd estimate of $250,000 - $350,000 … no takers; it is interesting to note that this same painting was in a Mid-west auction last year and failed to sell at $80,000 … what made them think that if they moved it to New York and doubled the estimate it would find a buyer?
In all, over $36 million worth of 19th century paintings traded hands … I know, that is the price of one nice, not great, Picasso, but in the 19th century world $36 million is pretty good.
With the continued strength we are seeing in the market it is important to keep in mind that there are always going to be those works that really shouldn’t sell, but do find buyers; and as the market continues to strengthen, we will begin to see more and more of these ‘Bad’ works sell. Once the market levels, or cools, off those individuals who thought they were getting a bargain will quickly learn that they now own something that almost impossible to sell at prices close to what they paid for them. If they can hold out until the next ‘boom market’, I am sure they will be fine; however, if they ‘must’ sell, it is going to be an ugly lesson.
In the related field of Russian art … among the hottest markets … the results were once again blistering … in fact, if the heat continues we may all want to visit Russia for its ‘tropical’ climate! Boris Kustodiev’s Odalisque (1919) sold for $2.9 million, it last appeared on the market in 1989 when it sold for $33,000; Isaak Levitan’s Marsh at Evening brought $2.13 million (5 years ago it sold for $309,000); Konstantin Somov’s Pierrot and a Lady (1923) made $2.23 million (back in 1985 it would have cost you $22,000); Alexander Yakovlev’s General Ma-Soo …, estimated at $150,000 - $200,000 cost the new owner $1.25 million, while his similarly estimated Kabuki Dancer brought $1.8 million; Konstantine Makovsky’s The Toilet of Venus sold for $800,000 (in 1991 you could have owned it for about $50,000); Ivan Aivazovsky’s The Golden Horn made $688,000, his The Rescue made $520,000, Full Moon Over the Ayu-Dag made $408,000 and the one result that brought tears to our eye’s was Crimea which sold for $732,800 … Rehs Galleries sold Crimea in 1996 for $23,000 – wish I could turn back the hands of time L. If you would like to see the painting, just go to the search feature on our web site, type in the word ‘russia’, check the SOLD box, and hit Search.
In related news, here are a few additional art results from across the globe. I am sure you all heard that Steve Wynn struck again – buying the J.M.W. Turner scene of Venice for $35.8 million; a G. Harvey painting titled Twilight in the City brought a record $214,000, while a Clark Hulings’ flower market scene made an equally strong $192,000. Charles W. Peale’s George Washington at Princeton brought a record $21.3 million; Montague Dawson’s HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake sold for an auction record $486,400 while his painting of the clipper ship Taeping made an impressive $396,800. Leaving the two ships in the distance was John Emms’ New Forest Foxhounds which went to its new owner for $843,000 … I remember back in the late 1980s when similar works sold in the $50,000 - $75,000 range. Getting back to the sea, a recently discovered work by Fitz Henry Lane appeared in New Hampshire where it sold for $913,500 and even more impressive was the price realized for a large, early, but unsigned painting by Antonio Jacobsen … $281,000!; Jack Vettriano’s Dance Me to the End of Love brought £290,000 (about $510,000) in the United Kingdom … the work was purchased from the artist’s dealer in 1998 for about £30,000 ($50,000); and Petrus van Schendel’s The Refreshment Stall (which was bought from a gallery in London about 8 years earlier for £30,000 or $50,000) made £250,000 (approximately $440,000).
The conclusion is obvious … the right works are still in demand while many of the works with issues are still having trouble finding a home.
A Few Odds and Ends
Outside of the ‘Art’ arena, there were more interesting results. A Beethoven manuscript that had been lost since the 1890s surfaced and sold for £1.12 million ($1.95 million); the now infamous 1996 ‘Del Monte’ $20 bill (a Del Monte banana sticker was affixed to the bill during the printing process) brought $25,300 … not a bad 10 year return! An 1885 US Trade Dollar was sold privately for $3.3 million, this same piece sold in 1997 for $907,000 and then in 1999 resold for $1.5 million. Nice to see that US currency is still hot! And finally, an 18th century Chinese ceremonial sword sold for a record $5.93 million in Hong Kong.
Howard L. Rehs
© Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York –May 2006
Gallery Updates: We are very pleased to inform you that since our last sales update the gallery has sold Emile Munier’s Le retour du marché; Edouard Cortes’ Gare de l’Est; Antoine Blanchard’s Boulevard de la Madeleine, 6 works by Ugo Giannini: The Garden, Enchanted Village, Head, Boats, Shell & Bust, and The Artist; and John Kuhn’s Dinosaurs.
Web Site Updates: New works by the following artists have been added to the web site: George Armfield, Antoine Blanchard, Edouard Cortes, Sally Swatland, John Kuhn and Ugo O. Giannini.
We have also added an updated biography on the British Victorian genre artist Arthur John Elsley
Next Month: More on the Art Market!