Following the success of Sotheby’s marathon session of live-streamed auctions on Monday, and ahead of Christie’s relay-style multi-city auction on 10 July, Phillips staged a sale last night which offered another valuable test of the art market. And as with Sotheby’s sales earlier in the week, the results of will give many cause for some confidence, and relief.
Last night the art market had its first major public test since the lockdown with a major ‘Evening auction’ session at Sotheby’s. This was certainly not a return to business as usual; viewing was by appointment, there were no glitzy receptions, and there was not even a saleroom filled with paddle-wielding bidders: instead, Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s European Chairman, stood on a rostrum in London for over four hours and conducted a livestream auction with staff manning phones in front of him, as well as in salerooms in New York and Hong Kong, and with clients also bidding directly online. It is often said that auctioneering is the second oldest profession; and while last night’s innovative event was a futuristic, slick-looking operation, the fundamentals were very much the same; supply, demand, a sense of occasion – and guarantees.
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.
The summer auctions of Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary art in London are one of the major moments for the art market, and they’ve traditionally been the key art moments of the year in the British capital. This year, the tradition was slightly scuppered by Christie’s surprise decision not to hold any auctions of Post-War and Contemporary Art but the other auction houses carried on as normal nonetheless, giving the season a slightly odd dimension but still presenting a chance to see the art market at work and gain market intelligence before the long summer break.
If you have any interest in art and antiques, this is the week to be in London. With a whole host of art auctions, fairs and events taking place across the city, and offering everything from antiquities to contemporary art, you’re going to need your stamina! Here we give you our take on four of the main events, along with a round-up of what to expect from the auctions.