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Christie’s Respectable but Unspectacular Impressionist/Modern Sale

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Where’d everyone go? (Christie’s, about two-thirds though the Impressionist/modern marathon)
I think I pretty much got it right in my art-market musings for WNYC‘s Morning Edition, airing today. But you can listen later and judge for yourself.
Here’s a quick recap of tonight’s somewhat humdrum but solid sale at Christie’s:
The hammer-price total was $349.99 million ($394.98 million with buyers premium), near the low end of the presale estimate of $348.65-$487.45 million. The biggest surprise was the geographical distribution of the buyers: 48.5% American, 24% European, 3% Asian, 1.5% Russian, 1.5% Latin American and 21.5% others. Americans had been expected to play a weaker role, due to the weaker dollar.
The only electricity in the room was reserved for Matisse‘s “L’Odalisque, Harmonie Bleue,” which set an auction record for the artist at $33.64 million. Some 17 of the 91 works in this overly long sale failed to find buyers—a larger percentage of buy-ins than at the comparable Christie’s sales last November or last May.
The St. Louis Art Museum’s deaccessioned Metzinger, estimated at $700,000-$1 million, fetched a hammer price of $2.1 million ($2.39 million with buyers premium), trouncing the previous auction record for the artist. But its Matisse and Renoir both sold slightly below their estimates.
By the last third of the sale, the place was about two-thirds empty. The remaining people shuffled out at the end looking slightly numb. The evening possessed none of the ebullience of the last two seasons.
I suspect there may be more buzz at Sotheby’s tomorrow, where the total presale estimate range, $355-494 million, is slightly higher for 15 fewer works. I’m guessing that the Tahitian Gauguin, the Picasso bronze bust of Dora Maar, the Schiele self-portrait and maybe the late van Gogh landscape and a couple of Picasso paintings could generate some sparks. Dora Maar already got off to a good start last night at Christie’s, where Picasso’s 1941 painting of her head on a pedestal was knocked down at $14.5 million, compared to an estimate of $6.5-8.5 million.
Do you think the buyer plans to corner the Maar head-on-a-pedestal market by acquiring the bronze, also conceived in 1941, at Sotheby’s tonight? That could prove a lot pricier.

an ArtsJournal blog