Change in the collecting geography at New York’s Imp & Mod spring sales
With exchange rates of precisely $2 to £1, Europeans
contributed most to the truly global bidding audience seen at this
year's spring series of Impressionist and Modern art sales in New
"It was the most international-driven sale I've ever seen," said
David C. Norman, director of Impressionist and Modern art at
Sotheby's. At Christie's European buyers purchased 48 per cent of
the lots with Americans accounting for an unusually low 29 per
But, if the talk was of a major shift in the collecting geography
caused by exchange rates, then equally indicative of a market at
full tilt was the positive reaction to a number of 'seen'
Two of three lots to share the top price of $16.5m (£8.25m) at
Christie's on May 9 had very recent saleroom exposure. Picasso's
classic Tête et Main de Femme of 1921 was reappearing on the market
after just two years - in May 2005 it had sold in these rooms for
$12m - while Juan Gris' textbook Cubist still life Le Pot de
Géranium doubled the previous auction record for the artist (and
the $7.7m/£5.24m it had made at Sotheby's New York in 2002).
Sotheby's, who were overshadowed last November by the stellar
performance of the quartet of restituted Bloch Bauer Klimts seen at
Christie's $491.5m (£271m) sale, posted the strongest set of
results this time round.
Their Part I sale on May 8 posted a premium-inclusive $278.5m
(£139.25m) - second only to the total achieved back in May 1990 -
with 61 of the 66 lots sold, while Christie's larger sale the
following evening (78 lots, of which 68 sold) posted $236.5m
(£118.25m), their third highest result for the category.
Sotheby's sale included four Cézanne watercolours collected by
London Asian art dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi. The ace of the group was
Nature Morte au Melon Vert (1902-6) which he had bought for £2.5m
in the sale of the British Rail Pension Fund at Sotheby's in
A telephone bidder, who was the most active competitor at the
sale, bought the watercolour for $25.75m, far above its $18m
estimate and a record for a Cézanne work on paper at auction.
Sotheby's had 'guaranteed' the picture.
The biggest surprise of the evening - and doubtless again a
lucrative deal for Sotheby's who had guaranteed the picture at less
than half its selling price - was Jesuits III (1915), a richly
coloured canvas of clerics crowding around a prostitute painted by
Lyonel Feininger at the height of his Expressionist period. After a
fierce exchange between two telephone bidders it more than doubled
hopes to bring $20.75m (£10.38m) - evidence of the rewards now
available for great works by so-called 'secondary' artists.
The New York Contemporary art sales, more ambitious than ever this
year, will be offered this week. When it comes to American
favourites Rothko and Warhol, few expect the European domination to
By Roland Arkell
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