Following on from last week’s record-breaking sales of the Rockefeller collection, another marathon week of auctions kicks off today in New York with the first highlight expected to be the $150 million nude by Amedeo Modigliani on the block tonight at Sotheby’s. The cover work for the Tate’s recent exhibition on the artist, it boasts the biggest pre-sale estimate ever attached to a work of art and is already guaranteed to sell. The auction also includes a beautiful Claude Monet, Matinée sur La Seine, which was painted in 1896 and is estimated at $18 million to $25 million.
The first Rockefeller auction at Christies took place on Monday focusing on 19th and 20th century art. While the bidding and atmosphere was almost slightly subdued, the sum raised was not; the auction set numerous artist records and became the most valuable estate ever sold at auction. The sale totalled £476million with all proceeds going to a selection of charities chosen by Peggy and David Rockefeller as the beneficiaries of their Estate. Pablo Picasso’s Fillette à la corbeille fleurie which was the top lot of the night, selling for £115,000,000, while new auction records were set for Claude Monet (£62,407,885), Henri Matisse (£59,506,264) and Eugène Delacroix (£7,277,082) amongst others.
There is no doubt that the art market in 2017 will long be remembered for a single transaction; the sale of the ‘Salvador Mundi’ presented by Christie’s as ‘the last da Vinci’ remaining in private hands. It sold at the Post-War and Contemporary Evening sale in November for a staggering $450 million – almost tripling the previous record price for a work of art sold at auction.
Over the last decade more and more has been written about the impact of the internet on the art market, with varying levels of generalisation and assumption. A flurry of start-ups has been vying to take the lead in this new area of an age-old market, but a recent report by Hiscox shows that it is Christie’s and Sothebys who are emerging as leaders in the online art market, even though they were initially slow to embrace internet sales. The recent demerger of Auctionata and Paddle8, and subsequent filing for insolvency of Auctionata, reflects continuing challenges for new online players in the market when it comes to gaining a share of the market, and perhaps the trust of customers, something that is impossible to win quickly without the security of a long-running, global brand and reputation.