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Lord Harry Gets Mixed Results (& hurls verbal missiles) at Sotheby’s Impressionist/Modern Sale

Auctioneer Harry Dalmeny (new to me) at Sotheby’s Impressionist/Modern sale tonight had a strange way of trying to entice bidders by pelting them with barbed wisecracks:

—I’ll have to hurry you: I’ve got a late flight.

—The next bid is going to have to be a bit more than nothing.

And this honest self-assessment, in the midst of bidding for the record-breaking Magritte:

—I’m an equal-opportunity insult-er.

Harry Dalmeny at the podium

In England, he’s known as Lord Harry Dalmeny, whose propensity for provocations reportedly got him into a ton of trouble a few years ago. (Where’s good-natured Oliver Barker when we really need him?)

Harry lorded it over a mixed-results sale, eliciting a total hammer price of $271.5 million from the New York crowd, only slightly below the $283.9-393.4 million presale estimate of total hammer price. (The total with buyer’s premium was $315.48 million for 65 works, compared to $279.25 million at Christie’s for 61 lots last night.) The full results are here.

Below is my Twitter rundown of the tonight’s ups and downs.

Pro Tip: You’ll need to click each image twice to view the full picture.

Note: My “unofficial count” was correct.

Another artist’s auction record achieved during this sale was $20.4 million ($17.8 million hammer, within the $15-20 million estimate) for Oskar Kokoschka’s “Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac,” 1910, recently restituted to the heirs of Alfred Flechtheim:

Oskar Kokoschka, “Joseph de Montesquiou-Fezensac,” 1910

According to a “news flash” emailed by Sotheby’s, that painting “was sold by Alex Vömel—a member of the Nazi party who took over Flechtheim’s Düsseldorf Gallery—to the National Museum of Fine Arts in Stockholm in 1934. In the 1950s, the work was transferred to the Moderna Museet, where it remained until it was returned to Flechtheim’s heirs earlier this year.”

The auction action should heat up with the upcoming contemporary sales. (I can’t promise to cover them in real time, due to conflicts with other commitments during the next three days, but I’ll give it a shot.)

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