There is much unrest in the auction world as competition for market share of the USD 65 billion or so global art market continues to intensify. Guarantees to sellers are now commonplace at the ultra-competitive top end of the market, although they seem to be offered more sparingly than before. Sotheby’s reported earlier this month that it bought Amy Cappellazzo’s Art Agency Partners for USD 50 million in order to solidify its art advisory capabilities.
So let’s see what that means for collectors. The February auctions in London are taking place next week and will be closely followed by art insiders and the general public alike: oftentimes auction records are achieved for the top quality works that the auction houses have to compete for. Here are some highlights.
Christie’s kicks off with a 50-lot Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale on February 2nd, including an important early Kandinsky, Murneau, Strasse from 1908, with pre-sale estimates of GBP 1.5 - 2.5 million. On February 3rd, Sotheby’s follows with 38 lots in its Impressionist and Modern Evening sale, including an early 1923 Matisse, the Piano Lesson, estimated at GBP 12 - 18 million.
Six days later Phillips opens the contemporary week with 46 works in its 20th Century and Contemporary Evening sale on February 9th. The star lot, a Piero Manzoni, Achrome from 1958 carries a pre-sale estimate of GBP 5 - 7 million. For the first time, Phillips is including art from the 20th Century in its London sale.
The next day, on February 10th, Sotheby’s offers Lucian Freud’s Pregnant Girl, 1960-61, estimated at GBP 7 - 10 million, in its 59 lot Contemporary Evening Sale. A touching portrait of Bernadine Coverley, the mother of Freud’s daughter Bella, the painting was bought by its current owner from Anthony d’Offay in 1983.
On February 11th Christie’s will offer a 1991 Peter Doig, the Architect’s Home in the Ravine at GBP 10 - 15 million, bought in 2013 at Christie’s by its current owner. This Post-War and Contemporary Evening Auction comprises 62 lots, including 2 lots (works by Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley) which are sold to benefit the South London Gallery.
Due to somewhat mixed results in the November auctions in New York there has been talk of a softer market. Let’s see how the February auctions do. I will report back with sell-through rates, totals achieved and record prices in my next column. Stay tuned.