Impressionist & Modern Art sales in New York: better results…



Sotheby’s and Christie’s have both posted improved figures after their Impressionist & Modern Art evening sales in New York compared with the same sales in 2009. The unsold rates are substantially lower at between 20 and 26% and their revenue totals are up. Excluding costs, Sotheby’s generated over $180 million on 2 November 2010 and Christie’s over $185 million on the following day. The sales also produced three new records. For Christie’s, the recovery is particularly spectacular after their weak performance in 2009 (less than $57 million exactly a year earlier).

The top results from the prestige sales at the two auctioneers include three works each by Fernand Léger, Matisse, Miro and Picasso, two each by Modigliani and Monet and one each by Chagall, Juan Gris, Caillebotte, Schiele and Giacometti.

The records
The best result from the two days of sales was generated by the top lot of the Sotheby’s sale (2 November), Nu assis sur un divan (la belle romaine), Amedeo MODIGLIANI’s sensual nude. In 1999 the work sold for $15.25m at the same auctioneer. This time it fetched $61,5m, a new record that has beaten the artist’s recent record for his Tête sculpture which fetched $46.65m in June at Christie’s in Paris (14 June 2010). A few minutes later Sotheby’s sold a portrait of Jeanne hebuterne (au chapeau) for 17m$, ($5m more than the pre-sale high estimate).

The following day, Christie’s offered a rare bronze by Henri MATISSENu de dos, 4 état (Back IV) that was acquired by the Gagosian Gallery for $43.5 million, $8.5 million above its high pre-sale estimate. This new world record is $2m above Matisse’s last world record for a painting (Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose fetched the equivalent of $41.46m at the historic sale of the Pierre Bergé -YSL collection on 23 February 2009 in Paris) and it confirms the extraordinary price ascension that has recently affected sculptures by Modern masters like Modigliani, Pablo PICASSO and Alberto GIACOMETTI.
Christie’s also offered a Juan GRIS painting entitled Violon et guitare that the artist completed in Céret in 1913. The work sold for $25.5m beating a record set two years earlier for another still life work, Livre, pipe et verres, which fetched $18.5m at the same auctioneer (6 November 2008).
Betting on the recent rise in the value of Juan Gris’ work, Christie’s was not afraid to guarantee the sale price of this superb painting. Gris crossed the $10m threshold for the first time in 2007 (his Le pot de géranium, fetched $16.5m on 9 May 2007 at Christie’s) while Picasso has been navigating in that area since the end of the 1980s. Indeed, since the new millennium began, Picasso has moved into another orbit with four results above $50 million between 2000 and 2010, pulling up the prices of the other historical cubists.

The upcoming Post-war & Contemporary Art sales this week may even beat the records generated by Modern Art last week… thanks essentially to Andy WARHOL. The highlight of the Phillip’s de Pury & Company’s sale is Men of her life, a rare piece by Andy Warhol estimated between 42 and $52m which fetched $56,5m, the second-highest price ever paid for a Warhol! The seminal work by Andy Warhol at Sotheby’s, 9 November, is dedicated to the classic consumer icon, Coca-cola, (1962, est. $20-25m) The following day, Christie’s will be offering a Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable) by the King of Pop for $30 to $50 million. In addition Christie’s will be testing the resilience of Jeff KOONS’ market when it offers his monumental Balloon Flower (Blue) for between $12 and $16m (the magenta version generated Koons’ all-time auction record of $23m on 30 June 2008 (Christie’s London).