Volume 85 marks the beginning of our 8th year of newsletters and we trust that all of you have been enjoying them. 2007 was another record year for the art market and it appears that 2008 will continue the trend. All of us at Rehs Galleries wish you and your families a very happy, healthy, and successful New Year!
After last month’s newsletter was sent out we received a number of replies and comments. One of our readers, M.G., had the following thoughts about the current state of the Contemporary market (thought some of you would find it amusing): The bottom line is to buy art you don't particularly like, at prices that you can't afford so that you get them off your wall 10 years later and make 10 times the amount you paid as compensation for having had to look at them for 10 years.
Now, on with the show!
Trusting the Seller
Another reader, B.B., was interested in knowing more about selling a work and had this very timely question: Can you trust the seller (referring to a gallery, dealer, or auction room that you might consider consigning a work to)?
During the past year the media has brought to light the questionable dealings of two of New York’s ‘premier’ (I use that word lightly) galleries --- Berry-Hill and Salander-O’Reilly. Accusations of bidding on works they owned at auctions; buying works and never paying for them; taking consignments and not remitting the proceeds to the owners; using other people’s money to buy works and not repaying them; the list goes on … and the court cases are piling up very quickly. One of the galleries mentioned was padlocked by the judge overseeing the case so that none of the art could “go missing”. So, what is someone to do when they are considering the potential sale of a painting? As with everything else, you need to do your homework. Today it seems that a quick search on the Internet will unearth a wealth of knowledge and, it appears, that most of the bad news makes its way to the top results very quickly (for those of you who are unfamiliar with the issues surrounding both of these galleries, try searching the Internet … I think you will find the articles very interesting and enlightening).
Many of the horror stories we have heard over the years are all too familiar … a gallery has agreed to buy a work (over time) from a seller and then after one or two installments, the payments stop and excuses start to flow in; or the dealer has sold a work that was left on consignment and they do not report the sale until confronted … then come the excuses and the need to work out some sort of payout, or they try to compensate the seller with some cash and additional works of art from their inventory. And these problems are not just relegated to the private art galleries, over the years many an auction room has been closed down or filed for bankruptcy protection: Sloan’s Auction Galleries, (2002), Pioneer Auction (2005), Boca Auction Gallery (2007); and others have been fined, or the owners were sent to jail, for their actions, and some are even back in business.
I will say this … unless a prior agreement was made concerning a payment deal, if a gallery or auction room begins to give excuses as to why they cannot pay you for the works they have sold then you need to consult a professional to protect your interests. And please do not wait too long … otherwise you might be among a long list of unhappy creditors. I also believe that it is a mistake to take ‘other works’ in part payment unless that was part of the original deal. If your work was sold, then there should be money to pay you … if not, something is probably amiss.
Please keep in mind that most art dealers / galleries / auction rooms conduct themselves in a very professional manner and there is little need to worry … but as they old saying goes … a few rotten apples can spoil it for the rest of the bunch.
Art Market Update Continued
The end of last month saw a series of American painting sales in New York and as with the other fields of art, the final results were very impressive. As we have seen with many other recent sales, the quality of the offerings were somewhat mixed and had a major George Bellows, being offered by Randolph College, not been withdrawn the results may have been way over the top … a group of students, alumnae, art donors and former employees filed a motion to halt the sale of 4 important works from the college’s collection and a temporary injunction was granted. So a great George Bellows (est. $25 - $35 million) was removed from the sale.
Top honors for the week went to Normal Rockwell when his Gary Cooper as “The Texan” brought $5.9 million (est. $1.5 - $2.5 million); while second place was nabbed by Andrew Wyeth when his The Intruder (1971) brought $5.75 million (est. $3 - $5 million). Other impressive prices included: Remington’s The Signal at $4.4 million; Winslow Homer’s Fishergirls brought $4.5 million, while his Herring Fishing made $3.06 million and his Portrait of a Lady made $2.17 million … all of which were rather small works on paper; Childe Hassam’s Sunset at Sea, a very luminous work foreshadowing the modern art of Rothko, brought $3.7 million; an Emanuel Leutze, The Last of the Mohicans (est. $700 - $1 million) brought $2.17 million --- Leutze is most famous for his painting titled Washington Crossing the Delaware. And among the rather surprising results were: H. Pushman’s Narcissa, a pleasant portrait which carried a realistic estimate of $80 - $120,000 and sold for over $500,000; N.C. Wyeth’s beautiful Indian Fishing, est. $250 - $350,000 made $937,000; and Frank Benson’s richly painted Herons and Lilies, est $400 - $600,000, brought $1.95 million.
Of course there were many pricey items that failed to find buyers and among them were Mary Cassatt’s Françoise in Green ($1.5 - $2.5 million); William M Chase’s unimpressive The Pet Canary ($1 - $1.5 million); Potthast’s Beach Scene $900 - $1.4 million); and Andrew Wyeth’s Sparks (2001) which carried an estimate of $2.5 - $4.5 million. I will add that when I first saw this work there were no ‘sparks’ flying in my eyes and I wondered ... can that painting really be worth $2.5 million? And if so why? I guess the fact that there were no takers answered my questions.
In the end, 414 works were offered and 314 were sold … leaving about 25% of the offerings unsold … for a total of $136.8 million (and had the Bellows not been removed, the results would have surely been even higher). In case you were wondering, during the May set of sales, $111 million worth of art was sold … so the American market is still heading in the right direction.
Interesting Odds and End
Here are a few interesting results from some of the other fields: this past month a 5000 year old Mesopotamian sculpture of a lioness (3 ¼ inches tall) sold for $57.1 million! In a private gallery sale, it was reported that two hunting decoys – one of a duck and the other a goose – each sold for a record $1.13 million. A Rufino Tamayo painting that had been stolen some 20 years ago and recently found in a pile of trash in NYC was sold for an impressive $1.04 million. The individual who found the painting was given a small percentage of the sale. A small (17 x 25 inch) painting by F.E. Church appeared at a sale in the Midwest. The pleasing Hudson River School landscape carried an estimate of $600 - $800,000 and when the bidding stopped the new owner paid $2.3 million; The infamous Honus Wagner baseball card, once again, appeared on the market and in a private gallery transaction was sold for a record $2.8 million (it was last on the market just 6 months ago when it sold for a then record $2.35 million). A gold medal, commissioned by George Washington and presented, after his death, to his adoptive son, the Marquis de Lafayette, was sold for $5.3 million. In a recent sale in Detroit there was a very pretty ‘American School’ painting featuring about 15 figures, mostly children, playing on a side street in New York. The work carried a $30 - $50,000 estimate and when the battle was over, the new owner paid over $3.7 million – I do hope they have a good idea as to whom the artist actually is!!
And finally …The Metropolitan Museum of Art has re-opened its 19th century painting wing and while I have not yet been there, reports are that the new galleries display many works that have rarely been seen before … including a complete gallery dedicated to the 19th century Orientalist artists. It is nice to see that the Met has finally given some ‘space’ to our period of art. If you have not visited their web site, you should. They have over 2000 paintings catalogued and many of the GREAT 19th century works that never make it to the public walls can be viewed digitally and they do have some of the GREAT 19th century paintings … including works by Bargue, Clays, Breton, August & Rosa Bonheur, Cabanel, Cot, Frere, Vibert, Corot, and Daubigny, to name but a few.
Howard L. Rehs
© Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York –January 2008
Gallery Updates: We will be participating in the 13th annual Los Angeles Art Show - January 23 – 27, 2008. The show takes place in the Barker Hanger at the Santa Monica Airport. If you are in the area, please stop by and see us.
This month works by the following artists have made their way through the gallery: Dupré, Schlesinger, Brunery, Knight and Swatland.
Web Site Updates: We have added, or will be adding, works by the following artists to our web site this month: Ridgway Knight, Boudin, Cortes, Blanchard, Swatland, Banks, and Kuhn.
Next Month: I am thinking. I am also always open to suggestions.
Happy New Year!