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New York’s Impressionist and Modern market bounces back

14 May 2002Written by ATG Reporter

Sotheby’s quadruple recent results and Christie’s celebrate boost too: Barely a month after its former chairman and chief executive were sentenced in a New York court, Sotheby’s bounced back in their Manhattan saleroom on May 8 with a $126m (£88.7m) Part I auction of Impressionist and Modern Art.

This premium-inclusive total, achieved from 55 lots of which just three failed to find buyers, almost quadrupled the modest $33.1m (£23.2m) achieved at the equivalent sale in November when Sotheby’s were still mired in US anti-trust litigation.

Consignors clearly felt confident that now was a good time to sell quality material. With Bernard Arnault – and his cheque book – bowing out of the Impressionist and Modern market, Sotheby’s were able to include two prestigious single owner collections in their Part I sale.

Paintings from the collection of the Swedish couple Grace and Philip Sandblom generated $30.5m (£21.5m), led by the sale-topping $15.25m (£10.7m) achieved for Paul Cézanne’s 1890-93 canvas Pichet et Assiette de Poires and the record $7.7m (£5.4m) for Juan Gris’ 1915 cubist still life Le Pot de Geranium.

Earlier in the sale Alberto Giacometti’s 1954 bronze, Grande Tête de Diego – the most valuable of nine lots entered by the Californian collectors Samuel and Luella Maslon – had inspired a spontaneous round of applause when it soared to $12.5m (£8.8m) against an estimate of $5-7m.

Underlining the importance of named private collections, the Maslon lots contributed $31.7m (£22.3m) to Sotheby’s total.

There had also been signs of renewed confidence on May 7 at Christie’s Part I sale where Constantin Brancusi’s superbly preserved and provenanced 1913 gilt bronze sculpture Danaïde created what auctioneer Christopher Burge called “an explosive and exciting start to the new season” when it sold for $16.5m (£11.6m).

The price, which was the highest of the sale and the highest for any sculpture sold at auction, was double the lower estimate. Christie’s also achieved a new record for René Magritte, the iconic and never previously auctioned 1952 oil, L’empire des lumières, selling for $11.5m (8.1m).

Here, however, Christie’s could not offer a named single owner collection and their final premium-inclusive total of $97.6m (£68.7m) from 46 lots (13 were left unsold) was slightly down on the $109m (£76.7m) achieved at their November sale, which included the superlative René Gaffé Collection.

Nonetheless, despite the absence of such truly stellar collections, the overall volume of $223.6m (£157.4m) generated by Sotheby’s and Christie’s Part I Impressionist and Modern sales was just $18.5m (£13m) down on the total
generated in New York last November, when an Arnault-backed Phillips de Pury Luxembourg held its heavily guaranteed Smooke Collection sale.

Normal service would appear to have been resumed – almost.
Exchange rate £1 = $1.42

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ATG Reporter

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