Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Strong Auctions - Tribal and Contemporary

Before the Christies and Sothebys - Reuters analyzes the contemporary and post-war offerings from both New York houses:

1. NEW YORK (REUTERS).- Buoyed by record results amid a dramatic art market recovery and an increasingly global clientele, Christie's and Sotheby's are gearing up for spring auctions with nearly $1 billion of art for sale. Last year proved one of the best with Christie's posting a record $5 billion in sales and Sotheby's making $774 million in revenue -- six times more than 2009 and its second highest ever apart from 2007. It was a far cry from 2009's dire drop in sales amid the global financial crisis. "We had not budgeted for such robustness last year," said Marc Porter, chairman of Christie's Americas. "It was rather amazing." But he added that it is still a market where you can't push prices -- that doesn't change. What has changed is the ascendance of the contemporary and post-war sector, which has nipped at and sometimes eclipsed the once indomitable Impressionist and modern arena.
The biggest sale will be held at Christie's on May 11, when 66 works led by pair of iconic Andy Warhol self portraits -- his first and one of his last before his death in 1987 -- are expected to fetch from $226 million to $316 million. The Warhols' provenance could not differ more. Estimated at $20 million to $40 million, a four-image 1963 work in hues of blue was commissioned by Detroit collector Florence Barron, who paid the rising star $1,600, some of it on the installment plan. It is being sold by her family. A much later work, one of Warhol's final self-portraits reportedly purchased by billionaire collector Peter Brant in 2002 for $3.2 million, is expected to fetch $40 million. Analysts say U.S. buyers are still the major market for such works from the post-war period. "The hedge fund guys can afford to do whatever they want," said Baird Ryan, the managing partner of Art Capital Group, which provides private financial and consulting services for art owners. "They have been collecting for years and don't bid recklessly." Sotheby's, which kicks off the auctions on Tuesday with its Impressionist and modern sale, also boasts a big Warhol, "Sixteen Jackies," and Jeff Koons' "Pink Panther" sculpture, each estimated to sell for $25 million. Phillips de Pury & Co. is staging a $100 million contemporary sale, its biggest ever, led by yet another Warhol, "Liz #5," a portrait of recently deceased Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor, which could fetch about $25 million. On the Impressionist and modern side, Sotheby's has a group of 10 Picassos led by "Femme lisant (Deux personnages)," a portrait of the artist's mistress Marie-Therese Walter estimated to sell for up to $35 million. Christie's is touting a $25 million Cubist Picasso, "Les femmes d'Alger, version L," and Monet's "Les peupliers," a pristine masterpiece from the artist's celebrated poplars series which is expected to fetch $20 million to $30 million.

And after the contemporary and post-war sales,  expectations were generally exceeded by sporadic aggressive bidding.

Sothebys NewYork, NY May 2011  Yesterday’s Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale at Sotheby’s New York brought $38,982,225, above the pre-sale low estimate of $34.4 million and the highest total for an Impressionist & Modern Day Sale at Sotheby’s worldwide since February 2008. Following the success of Alberto Giacometti’s Femme debout, which sold for $7,362,500 against a high estimate of $3 million in last night’s Evening Sale, today’s auction was led by a pair of unique bronze sculptures by the artist. Petite Figurine (Homme) & Petite Figurine (Femme) achieved $962,500, well above their high estimate of $600,000. Cast circa 1946, the works were a gift from Giacometti to a friend. “We are very pleased with the results of today’s sale, which echoed a number of themes that we saw last night,” commented Molly Ott Ambler, Vice President and Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sales.

1. Sotheby's suffers growing pains
The auction house’s contemporary evening sales fall short of low estimate as its share prices take a tumble
By Charlotte Burns and Bonnie Rosenberg | Web only
Published online 10 May 11 (Market)
Sotheby's Tobias Meyer steered a steady course throughout the low-key sale new york. As Sotheby's prepared to hold the second part of its contemporary art evening sales tonight, the company's stock took a tumble and was downgraded from “buy” to “accumulate”. More than 2.6m Sotheby's shares were
traded today, following the quarterly report to shareholders in which the company announced that, while total revenue increased by 17% in the first quarter thanks to sales of high-end works, its operating costs—which were trimmed drastically during the downturn—rose 16%. This impacted the share price, which fell 6.1% today to close at $43.71. "It amounts to what we believe are growing pains for this part of the up-cycle which began a year ago," said Wall Street analyst George Sutton of Craig-Hallum Capital Group.
Despite the packed salesroom, the atmosphere on the floor this evening lacked energy as the auction house fell short of its low estimate, with total sales at $111.2m (Total with commission included, $128m, est $120.8m-$171.4m). The 58-lot sale was 84.5% sold by lot and 88.7% by value.
Major works failed to fly, including the catalogue's cover lot, Jeff Koons' porcelain sculpture Pink Panther, 1988. The work was covered by an irrevocable bid and was expected to sell for $20m-$30m. After lacklustre bidding, it hammered at $15m. The hefty expectations, however, detracted from the fact that the $16.9m total (when the buyer’s premium is added) is, nonetheless, a big increase on the previous record for a work from the series—$1.8m at Christie's in 1999—and ranks as Koons' third most expensive sale at auction. “I think it's beautiful, but it's not my style,” said fashion designer Valentino.
Sotheby's had simply gotten greedy in estimating some of the major works so aggressively. “There was a push-back against the fact that the auction house overreached. People were selective,” said New York dealer Edward Tyler-
Nahem. Andy Warhol's Sixteen Jackies, 1964, also disappointed. Estimated at $20m-$30m, it hammered at $18m (total $20.2m with premium) going to a phone bidder, underbid by Jose Mugrabi. There were two Warhol Round Jackie silkscreens from 1964 on offer, but while the first sold just above the $3m low estimate to hammer at $3.25m ($3.7m with premium added), the second failed to elicit a single bid, something dealers ascribed to the fact that it was simply an uglier picture. Ed Ruscha's oil painting Honey...I Twisted Through More Damned Traffic to Get Here, 1984, was bought in at $3.25m. The $3.5m-$4.5m estimate looked particularly punchy given the work's auction history. It first sold at Sotheby's in
1989 for $297,000, and then again at Christie's in 1998 for under half the original price of $107,000. “It was totally overpriced,” said secondary market dealer Christophe Van de Weghe. “If the estimate is correct, then things will sell. The market is good, but one has to be careful,” he added. Nonetheless, there were some good results. Van de Weghe called the $5.2m hammer price for Basquiat's Erioca I, 1988 “cheap” adding, “It's an exceptional painting and was one of the last works Basquiat painted. It's an amazing piece.”
Jose Mugrabi was the successful buyer this time, vying against a phone bidder (total $5.9m, est $3.5m-$4.5m). Felix Gonzalez-Torres' was, perhaps unsurprisingly, championed by advisor Philippe Segalot, who included the artist in the auction he “curated” with Phillips de Pury in November 2010. This evening's lot, Untitled (Aparaciôn), 1991, was chased by four bidders including gallerist David Zwirner, but sold to Segalot for $1.4m (total $1.65m, est $600,000-$800,000). There was excitement in the room when Warhol's red Shadow painting leapt immediately from the $500,000 starting price to a $2m offer on the telephone, eventually selling for $4.25m (total $4.8m, est $700,000-$900,000). “It's an
example of a good collaboration with the seller. The owner was guided by us,” said Sotheby's international senior specialist Anthony Grant. “If we'd have estimated it for much higher than the last [Shadow painting sold for], it would have raised a lot of questions.” He conceded that the auction house had stretched too far on estimates for some of the works, “maybe anticipating a market that's not quite there yet.”
Nonetheless, auctioneer Tobias Meyer steered a steady course throughout the sale and did well given the material on offer. “A lot of the works were not fresh to the market,” said dealer Paolo Vedovi. L&M gallery director Dominique Levy, who successfully bid $1.25m for Agnes Martin's Untitled #7, 1985, for the gallery's inventory (total $1.5m, est $1.5m-$2m) added: “People are used to extraordinary things and tonight was average.”Nonetheless, the house will be buoyed somewhat by the $54.8m auction of 42 works from the collection of legendary dealer Allan Stone, which easily passed its $46.8m high estimate last night (9 May). There was deep bidding for the sale's top lot, John Chamberlain's Nutcracker, 1958, which sold for $4.2m to Larry Gagosian, who recently signed the artist (total $4.8m, est $1.2m-$1.8m). Other highlights in the sale, which boasted the impressive figures of 92.9% sold by lot and 98.6% by value, included the selection of 18 works by Wayne Thiebaud. All but one sold, topping the $12.8m-$18.3m estimate to total $27.5m with premium. The top-seller was Four Pinball Machines (Study), a 1962 canvas that fetched $3m (total $3.4m, est $700,000-$900,000). The results for two sales show that the market is hungry for fresh work to come to the block. “People want new material, great provenance and something iconic,” said dealer Paolo Vedovi. All eyes now turn to Christie's, which holds its sale of contemporary art tomorrow.

2. Sothebys  NEW YORK (AP).- A rare wooden sculpture of a Tahitian girl by Paul Gauguin sold for $11.3 million at auction Tuesday. The "Young Tahitian" bust, last seen by the public in 1961, had been estimated to bring $10 million to $15 million, the Sotheby's auction house said. The sculpture is of a serene-looking Tahitian girl wearing large earrings and a necklace of coral and shells the French artist collected and strung himself. It's the only known fully worked three-dimensional bust he made. Gauguin, a post-Impressionist master, spent many years in Tahiti painting the island's beautiful women, flowers and lush tropical landscape. He presented the sculpture, "Jeune tahitienne" in French, to a friend's 10-year-old daughter in 1894 after promising her he would bring her a gift from the South Seas. Many years later, that girl, Jeanne Fournier, entrusted a Dominican priest to sell the sculpture. On June 28, 1961, it was consigned to a Sotheby's auction in London. The 9 1/2-inch sculpture had been in the possession of the current New England owner since. The owner's name hasn't been disclosed. The current record for a Gauguin artwork is $40.3 million for "L'homme a la hache," or "Man with the ax," an oil on canvas that sold at Christie's auction house in New York in November 2006. The latest auction coincides with the "Gauguin: Maker of Myth" exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It is the first major exhibition of the artist's career in the United States in about 20 years.

3. NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art auctions today brought a combined total of $21,846,692, well over the high estimate (total est. $8.3/12.6 million).* The single owner sale of the Robert Rubin Collection of African Art fetched $11,742,188, many multiples of the pre-sale estimate (est. $2.5/3.9 million) and was 94% sold-by-lot. The afternoon saw the various owner sale of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art bring $10,104,504, also comfortably over the high estimate (est. $4.2/5.9 million). In total six objects sold for more than $1 million and there was strong institutional bidding.
Heinrich Schweizer, Head of the African and Oceanic Art Department in New York said: “We are delighted with the results of today’s sales which brought $21.8 million. The exceptional total achieved for the Robert Rubin Collection is a testament to Robert’s extraordinary taste and discernment. The market recognized that this was a once in a generation opportunity to acquire part of this distinguished collection. Throughout today’s sales we saw in-depth bidding and international participation.” The Robert Rubin Collection
The Robert Rubin Collection was led by a Songye Male Power Figure ( Ht 8 1/4") which sold for $2,098,500 to set a new record for a Songye work at auction (est. $150/250,000). The piece is an icon of African Art that has been widely published and is one of the best small scale Songye figures to have appeared at auction. Other highlights included a Yombe Maternity Figure from the DRC, one of the finest sculptures from the Western Congo ever to have appeared at auction, which sold for $1,874,500 setting a new record for a Yombe work at auction (est. $150/250,000) and a Baule Male Ancestor Figure from Ivory Coast, the finest example of this type to appear at auction in recent memory which fetched $1,538,500, setting a new auction record for a Baule statue (est. $600/900,000). Afternoon sale: African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art The various owner sale was led by Yoruba Standing Female Figure Offering A Ram from Nigeria which sold for $1,650,500, several times the high estimate, to set a new auction record for a Yoruba piece (est. $200/400,000) and a Pair Of Elema Bird Masks from Papua New Guinea (ex Friede Collection see previous Newsletters) which were sought by five bidders before selling for $1,022,500 (est. $250/350,000). The afternoon auction also included a number of superb pieces from The Pierre and Tana Matisse  Foundation. These were led by a Teotihuacan Greenstone Mask, circa. A.D. 450-650, which doubled the high estimate to sell for $530,500 (est. $150/250,000) and an Admiralty Islands Bowl In The Shape Of A Frigate Bird from Papua New Guinea which fetched $194,500 (est. $20/30,000). *Estimates do not include buyer’s premium 

4. NEW YORK American Indian sale Sothebys NY May 18, 2011
Sothebys NY Wall Street Journal It's "the ultimate power shirt," as Sotheby's David Roche calls it.
The deer-hide war shirt, with locks of human hair dangling from its chest, belonged to Chief Black Bird of the Oglala Sioux. The chief played a part in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77 and, in all likelihood, the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 alongside legendary Sioux leader Crazy Horse.  Sotheby's wants as much as $350,000 for this war shirt that once belonged to Oglala Sioux Chief Black Bird..Now the object hangs at Sotheby's New York branch with arms outstretched, awaiting the annual American Indian art auction Wednesday. The shirt might never have seen battle, though Black Bird did model it for others: He's wearing it in a promotional postcard for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the early 1900s. Sotheby's lists the item as a top lot in this sale and values it at $250,000 to $350,000, partly because of that photograph and
several others showing Black Bird in the tunic. "It's historically significant because it can be tied to a particular person," said Joe Horse Capture, an associate curator of Native American art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and an authority on war shirts. This year his museum bought an early-18th-century painted-hide shirt at Christie's for $362,500, above the high estimate of $300,000. The hair strands attached to the shirt were talismans, probably taken from a family member and worn for protection, said Mr. Roche. He added that the
adornments, which were intertwined with horse hair, were also meant to look fearsome—what he called "a nod to the threat of scalping." The sale of a shirt believed by Sioux to be powerful enough to deflect bullets
has its critics. "People's war shirts have their personal power on them," said Tom Grayson Colonnese, chair of the American Indian studies department at the University of Washington. "These kinds of items that have power are alive, so you don't sell those things."Buyers of such objects are rarely Native American, said Mr. Roche, senior consultant to Sotheby's American Indian art department. Native American art is increasingly purchased by bidders from Canada, Europe and the Middle East, with half of all lots going to international buyers at the Sotheby's American Indian art sale last year, he said. After Black Bird's death—the date is unknown—the shirt resurfaced in 1960 when Nuremberg Trial courtroom artist Ed Vebell bought it from the
American etiquette expert Amy Vanderbilt. Sotheby's obtained the shirt from private collectors who acquired it from Mr. Vebell in 2007. —Ellen Gamerman Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights

American Indian Sales Results:  Total sales $4,809,503 with the war shirt selling for $2,658.500. Another ten lots accounted for a little over 1.2 million meaning that 11 lots  totaled almost 4 million dollars out of a total lot offering of 171 lots. Many lots went unsold but the top end saved the auction.

Christies NY - May 2011 Overall, Christie's totalled $156m, selling 82% by lot and 81% by value. Nineteen works sold for more than $1m, while three pieces went over $5m, and four fetched more than $10m. Nonetheless, the figures were lower than rival Sotheby's, which took $170m last night.
Despite coming out on top, Sotheby's stock dropped 8% today to $46, the biggest dip in ten months. This reflects the fundamental problem for both houses: supply. While both did well with the material on offer, neither had managed to secure a $25m-plus firecracker to really spark excitement and send prices rocketing. Meanwhile, the estimates for the more important works in both sales were often on the optimistic side, indicating that the auction houses had to work hard in enticing collectors to consign. Equally, a high volume of the pieces on offer had appeared at auction within the past decade, another sign of the struggle to get fresh material. (

1. NEW YORK, NY.- Christie's reports its two-week sales series devoted to important Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art totaled $556,944,875 (£338,398,139/€384,154,653) and yielded average sell-through rates of 87% by lot and 90% by value. These stellar results underscore Christie's position as market leader for the major spring sales series in the Americas. The next round of auctions in these categories will take place next month in London, featuring important private collections from the estate of Swiss collector and dealer Ernst Beyeler and from the pioneering curator and collector Kay Saatchi. Of the most recent sales series in New York, Marc Porter, Chairman and President of Christie's Americas, noted, “These sales were marked by strong, sensible bidding on the part of collectors, with moments of rational exuberance. Collectors and dealers alike were committed to acquiring the very best examples of work, whether from blue-chip legends like Picasso and Warhol, or from contemporary artists like Urs Fischer and Marc Quinn. We are honored that Christie’s emerged as the auction house of choice for many of this season’s most talked-about works of art – from Vlaminck’s vivid 1905 Fauvist landscape that enthralled visitors to our galleries, to Fisher’s 35,000 pound teddy bear unveiled on Park Avenue, to the 1960s-era Warhol self-portrait that inspired an epic, 16-minute bidding battle in our saleroom. We look forward to more landmark auction moments like this in our next major sales series in London this
summer. ” In total, a whopping 88 lots offered over the course of the last two weeks surpassed the $1 million price threshold. Two lots — the record-setting 1963-64 Warhol and the rediscovered Rothko — exceeded the $30 million mark, and nine lots exceeded the $10 million mark. Numerous artist records were set — for Maurice de Vlaminck, Maximilien Luce, Cindy Sherman, Urs Fischer, Richard Diebenkorn, Cy Twombly and Anselm Kiefer, among others. Among the many landmark prices achieved, Christie’s also set the record for the most expensive photograph ever sold (Sherman) and the top price for any Warhol portrait.
Among the themes and trends that emerged during the sales series was the continued demand for top-quality works by Warhol. Christie’s offered a total of 25 works by the art world’s King of Pop, realizing a combined total of  $96,729,850. The photo-booth style Self-Portrait, 1963-64 – the artist’s very first self-portrait – sold for $38,442,500 (£23,449,925/€26,909,750) after a protracted bidding competition that auctioneer Christopher Burge quipped was ―the longest lot in history‖. The price with premium surpasses the previous record of $32.5 million set for a Warhol self-portrait last year. On the same night, Self-Portrait, 1986 – from the last great self-portrait series the artist completed before his death in 1987 – sold to a bidder in the room for $27,522,500 (£16,788,725 /€19,265,750). Self-portraits by post-war and contemporary artists fared well overall, from Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Self-Portrait, 1974, which fetched $25,282,500 (£15,422,325/€17,697,750), to Cindy Sherman’s Untitled, 1981 – which
established not only a new world auction record for the artist, but also set a new world auction record for any photograph at $3,890,500 (£2,373,205/€ 2,723,350). Re-discovered works also inspired collectors this season, and Christie’s unveiled several significant paintings that had been hidden from view in private collections for decades. Leading the group is Pablo Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger, version L, one of the largest works within the artist’s groundbreaking series of 15 paintings created in 1955 in homage to the masterpiece of the same name by the 19th century master Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). Originally owned
by the legendary New York collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, the grisaille-toned painting of a single female figure was offered from a private American collection and had not been seen in public in more than 50 years. It fetched $21,362,500 (£12,817,500/ €14,312,875). In the Post-War & Contemporary sales, Mark Rothko’s Untitled No. 17, a rare discovery and heralded addition to the great Rothko canon, realized $33,682,500 (£20,546,325/€23,577,750) while Roy Lichtenstein’s drawing Study for
Kiss V, a study for one of Lichtenstein’s most famous paintings fetched $2,098,500 (£1,280,085/ € 1,468,950). This magnificent work was acquired for a mere $10 in 1965 at a New York City Happening, and had been owned by the same collector since. In addition to the new world auction records mentioned above, world records were established for the following artists, including:
• Maurice de Vlaminck - $22,482,500 for Paysage de Banlieue, 1905
• Cy Twombly - $15,202,500 for Untitled, 1967.
• Richard Diebenkorn - $7,698,500 for Ocean Park #121, 1980.
• Urs Fischer- $6,802,500 for Untitled (Lamp/Bear), 2005-2006
• Maximilien Luce - $4,226,500 for Notre-Dame de Paris, 1900
• Robert Indiana - $4,114,500 for Love Red/Blue, 1990.
• Anselm Kiefer - $3,554,500 for Laßt tausend Blumen blühen!, 1999
• Marc Quinn - $1,202,500 for Myth Venus, 2006
• George Condo - $1,052,500 for The Ballerina, 2002
• Henri Lebasque, $1,022,500 for Le goûter sur la terrasse à Sainte-Maxime, 1914
• Jean Helion, $782,500 for Sans titre, 1935
• Alexander Calder - $602,500 for Necklace, 1939
*World Auction Record for Calder Jewelry

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