Christopher Burge, Christie’s honorary chairman, as seen in the webcast of last night’s auction
It seems that Christie’s won’t have the services of last night’s triumphant veteran auctioneer, Christopher Burge, at next fall’s big evening sales of Impressionist/modern and contemporary art.
In response to my request for further clarification about what Burge last night had called his “last outing,” Christie’s head of public relations, Toby Usnik, told me that the salesroom maestro “has not scheduled another auction for this year but we are certain you’ll see him at the auction rostrum again.”
Who we’ll likely be seeing more of is Jussi Pylkkänen, president of Christie’s Europe, who presided over last week’s dull Impressioniist/modern sale. “Thanks for your bids,” was his frequent backhand tribute to disappointed would-be buyers.
Museums didn’t fare well last night. The Philadelphia Museum of Art lost the long-term loans, from its late board member David Pincus, of the stellar work by Rothko (the top lot in Christie’s sale and the new auction record-holder for contemporary art), as well as paintings by Newman and Still. [CORRECTION: The Christie’s catalogue erred. Timothy Rub, director of the Philadelphia Museum, told me that the Rothko,the Newman and the $23.04-million Pincus Pollock, but not the Still, had been long displayed at the PMA, taken down two or three months ago to be sent to market.]
The Akron Art Museum’s dubious deaccession of Cindy Sherman‘s “Untitled #96” from her landmark “Centerfolds” series (the famous image of a girl—Sherman herself—in an orange sweater, lost in reverie), fell short of its $2.8-3.8 million presale estimate, stallng at $2.5 million ($2.88 million with buyer’s premium).
Doing better was Museum of Modern Art, whose deaccessioned Hans Hofmann, estimated to bring $2-3 million, fetched a hammer total of $3.1 million ($3.55 million with buyer’s premium).
Both auction houses are edging back into luring consignors with guaranteed prices—a practice that fell into disuse after guarantees went sour as a result of the 2008 financial meltdown. Christie’s had six guaranteed lots last night (including the second most expensive in the sale—the $36.48-million Yves Klein). All of those guarantees were backed by third parties, who receive a fee for taking the risk. Sotheby’s tonight has only two guaranteed lots—a Warhol and a Polke, both of which are backed by irrevocable bids by third parties.