FIAC Opens to Christie's Strong Auction

Monet Record Setter Revealed; The Curse of the Lobby; Anticipating Nauman's Market; and Sotheby's African Sale = $3m

Christie’s Paris Avant-Garde = €29.6m

Experimenting with a sale organized to take advantage of visitors to the newly revived FIAC, Christie’s had a strong sale of Modern and Contemporary art today. The top lot was Pablo Picasso’s Guitar. It was followed by several familiar names in the French market Zao Wou-ki, Pierre Soulages, Nicolas de Staël and Jean Arp who have all been experiencing strong and active sales. The surprise was Pierre Alechinsky who had a work double his former record price to make €1.38m.

Christie’s gave out a break down by category of the sales:

  • The Impressionist and Modern Art section realised €11,431,000 including Fernand Léger's Nature morte  which sold for €1,039,500 and Chaïm Soutine's La place de la Liberté à Céret realised €877,500.

  • The Contemporary Art section totalled €18,278,000 with a strong price established for Zao Wou Ki's 01.04.1986 which sold for €2,857,000 against a presale estimate of €800,000-1,200,000 and for Pierre SoulagesPeinture 97 x 130cm, 5 juin 1962, sold for €2,632,500.

Sotheby’s Mod & Cont African Art = $3m

Sotheby’s held its third sale of Modern & Contemporary African Art in London yesterday and was able to make £2,274,625 ($3,000,230) from the 70 lots that sold out of 99 offered. The pre-sale estimate was £1.8-2.6m. So, the hammer total was shy of the low estimate. There were buyers from 20 different countries including the Middle East and Asia. African buyers took home 26% of the sold lots.

The top lots were dominated by some familiar names like El Anatsui, Chéri Samba, Kader Attia and Ben Enwonwu. But the most dynamic lot of the top ten was

  • The Warrior, a painting by Senegalese artist Papa Ibra Tall, which was purchased by jazz legend Duke Ellington in Dakar in 1966 at the World Festival of Negro Arts. Bidding drove the final price to was hotly contested by multiple bidders who drove the final sale price to £118,750 ($156k), almost fifteen times the low estimate (£8,000-12,000).

Bruce Nauman’s Market Braces for Impact

Bruce Nauman’s retrospective may have a different effect on his market than we normally see. James Tarmy asks what is going to happen to Bruce Nauman’s market after the impact of the retrospective now opening in New York. Most artists of Nauman’s age and productive longevity experience secondary market lifts once the shared recognition of a major museum retrospective filters through the collecting public. Tarmy points out that Nauman’s secondary market is punctuated by significant sales but they can ben sporadic and are rarely directional. His most valuable work Henry Moore Bound to Fail, which was cast in an edition of nine plus and artist’s proof, has seen two of the casts sold 15 years apart. Surprisingly, the first sale was for a significantly higher sum than the second sale two years ago. This was despite the fact that the work was the headline object in a major curated sale. Whatever drives Nauman’s market, as advisor Lisa Schiff intimates to Tarmy, the market that may matter more is his primary one.

  • There hasn’t been a Nauman show of this magnitude for so long, Halbreich explains, simply because Nauman, who’s now 76, didn’t want one. “After every major show, there’s a slowdown of what gets made in the studio,” she says. […] As a consequence, Nauman, to many, has been an historical figure rather than a figure of the moment. And that leads to the other reason the show is being received with such fanfare: The reintroduction to the public could have major implications for the market for Nauman’s work. “It’s definitely going to do something [to his market], and I think it already has,” says Lisa Schiff, senior adviser at Schiff Fine Art, an art consulting firm. “But it’s not going to be like George Condo,” an artist whose market has exploded at auction in recent years.

Paul Allen Was Buyer of Record-Setting Monet

Under a headline that promises to reveal how Paul Allen built his collection, we mostly get a few random observations from advisors and auction house personnel. The disposition of Paul Allen’s art collection remains a subject of great speculation within the art world. Allen’s decision to sell a de Kooning work through Lévy Gorvy earlier this year may have been the start of disbursing some or all of Allen’s collection. As Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina illustrates, some works Allen acquired may have been too visible recently to be sold at auction again (if they’re not ultimately donated to an institution.)

  • “Allen was the anonymous buyer of the French painter’s 1891 canvas of a haystack for $81.4 million, then an auction record, at Christie’s in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the transaction was private.”

Amy Cappellazzo on Art in Building Lobbys

We haven’t had a chance to quote Amy Cappellazzo recently but her prominent role in the new documentary, the Price of Everything, offers that opportunity again where she opines on what she calls, Lobby Art:

  • Once an artist’s work is installed in a building entrance, it’s over. “It will never get out,” she said.

A Blow to Democratic Culture?

Speaking of The Price of Everything, the New York Times’s A. O. Scott has a thoughtful review of the documentary that may be a little more thoughtful than most on the subject of the art market. Although Scott wavers between viewing art prices as a source of dread — “the sums commanded by the de Koonings and the Richters are staggering, and their disappearance into private collections feels like a blow to the idea of a democratic culture” — and an incentive toward inventiveness and creation (“‘You can’t have a golden age without gold,’ someone says, and by that standard we are currently in an epoch of platinum.”) He concludes:

  • “But if the artists are the heroes, the auctioneers, collectors and dealers aren’t exactly the villains. Their acquisitiveness might be an expression of love.”

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