Picasso’s Nature Morte aux Tulipes was the top lot of the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale, selling for $41.5 million.
NEW YORK - In my 25+ years at Sotheby’s, I have rarely experienced a more extraordinary couple of weeks in the lead up to a major sale. We experienced an epic hurricane, an election (whomever you were for, it is an event that rivets the nation and engenders much speculation as to the effects of the outcome), a Nor'easter, and a drop in the Dow for good measure; and yet, collectors are still pursuing works of great quality at every price level. Sotheby’s sold over $200 million of art in 36 hours. Add Christie’s results and we witnessed the trade of nearly a half a billion dollars of art in one week. Combine that with the excitement the sales have generated for next week, and we see great confidence in the value (in both senses of that word) of art.
The story of both sales has the same narrative we have seen for many seasons: there is tremendous liquidity and demand for works judged to be of superior quality, which are properly estimated. As a matter of fact, auctions are never filled to the brim with pieces that are all necessarily of ‘museum quality,’ but if they are properly estimated, the buyers will be there. The art market is more global than ever before. That diversity of collectors, whether we measure by nationality, sources of wealth or collecting interest, is keeping the market healthy and stable. The art world often functions in the inverse of many others, in that demand often rises to meet supply (if the supply is correctly presented).
Records and prices well over estimate were set at both houses and paintings went unsold as well. The auctioneer’s responsibility is to learn from each auction in order to best advise and perform for future sellers.