The story of the week is high estimates and limited supply. Why the auction houses are putting together 70-lot evening sales when the buyers complain of there’s not enough quality for a 50-lot sale is known only to themselves. Pressed by consignors to slap high estimates on the work and starved by buyers who —judging from the chopped bids and baby-step increments—don’t want to spend a penny they don’t have to, the auction houses are feeling the squeeze.
There’s clearly an implication for the whole art-as-investment trend but we’ll explore that later in another post or venue.
For now, let’s listen to what Katya Kazakina got from the chatty dealers in attendance at Sotheby’s last night:
“It’s a smart market today,” said New York dealer Christoph van de Weghe. “If things are priced right, they sell. If they are priced even a tad higher, they don’t.”
The Master, Judd Tully, was on the prowl in the antechambers of Sotheby’s saleroom too:
“If you have something really exceptional,” said [Nancy] Whyte, moments after the sale, “there’s lots of bidding.”
Several auction-goers put a positive spin on the disappointing pair of evening sales. David Rogath, the seasoned Greenwich Connecticut collector and principal of Chalk & Vermilion Fine Art, observed, “I think both houses did very well if you look at the details, and I think the market is fine.” [...] “Sotheby’s had a chance to go second and they made the best of it,” he added. […]
“I think it’s a case of too many bad pictures,” said private dealer Roger McIlroy, who bought a Brancusi plaster last night at Christie’s for $12.4 million. “There’s a desperation for good stock and this auction machine will do anything to get it.”
Dan Duray and Andrew Russeth pounced on Jack Tilton who was clearly in a buying mood:
“People are still prepared to pay for the good lots,” said the dealer Jack Tilton—who had himself purchased at low estimate an Henri Matisse work on paper for a client—of the Picasso. “It’s just a matter of the auction houses finding them.”