David Benrimon Fine Art LLC is proud to announce that we are expanding to a new location in New York City at
21 East 65th Street
New York, NY 10065
Tel 212 628 1600
Fax 212 628 1636
Beginning Monday, November 23, 2009,
Please feel free to come by and visit us at any time during the week.
Long Live the Art Market!
All the best,
The Impressionist and Modern Art auctions by Christie’s and Sotheby’s relieved some doubt in the art market. Despite Christie’s inferior auction, Sotheby’s deep and varied bidding demonstrated that strong material is still highly desired by collectors. The first 16 lots of Sotheby’s evening sale took almost 45 minutes to get through and yielded more money than the whole of Christie’s evening auction. These beginning lots attracted numerous seasoned dealers and collectors as well as new ones. Sotheby’s began with a lightning bolt when the 1937 Dali entitled “Girafe en feu” (Giraffe on Fire) (shown right), severely under-estimated at $150,000-$200,000, sold for $1.87M. The momentum continued through the whole night.
Over 800 people looked on as the bidding wars continued. Over 93% of lots were sold for an impressive $180.9M including premiums, well above previous auction seasons, and 64% of the lots went for above their high estimates. In comparison Christie’s sold 28 out of their 40 lots and finished in an hour with a total of $65.7M including premiums. What could account for such a discrepancy in auction offerings and results? Many in the audience looked to Guy Bennett sitting at Sotheby’s with a phone cupped to his ear while bidding up to and winning the Derain for $12.5M, exclusive of premiums. Without Guy Bennett, the former head of Christie’s Modern and Impressionist evening Sale, the bidding at Christie’s was lacking just as much as their material.
The sale at Sotheby’s included property from the potentially distressed Mr. S.I. Newhouse Jr. of Conde Nast fame. Mr. Newhouse sold a “L’Homme Qui Chavire” (“Falling Man”) sculpture by Giacometti for the whopping sum of $19.4M including premiums. The audience gasped at this fantastic total not only because of the $8-$12M estimate, but also because the sculpture had been offered for private sale to what seemed like everyone but the Eastern European buyer and the other bidders in the room. The work had been on the private market through the auction houses private treaty sales and the mega-gallery Gagosian. The sale of the sculpture reinstates that high quality works still command serious sums at auction.
Sotheby’s had the lionshare of impressive works, of which 27 came from Dutch Financier Louis Reijtenbagh’s collection, with 22 selling for a full third of the evening’s total.
At Christie’s, the magnificent Portrait de Marquis Sommi by Lempicka (show right) continued to soar well above its estimate of $2-$3M and sold for $4.3M including premiums.
The recently restituted settlement of Degas “Danseueses” was the star of the Christie’s sale. It settled just in time to be sold for $10.7M. The restitution agreement regarding this work has been conspicuous and except for a quick saleroom notice from Christopher Berge mentioning the issue, the catalogue, media and dealers had simply ignored it.
The 232 lot day sale at Christie’s netted $18.7M, which once again was beaten by Sotheby’s 219 lot day sale which equaled $25.4M.
Just like the Impressionist sales, Christie’s was first and smaller with 47 lots initially headed to the block, but right before the sale, one of the major lots, a painting by Andy Warhol entitled, “Most Wanted Men No. 3, Ellis Ruiz B.” was withdrawn. Many in the audience believed it was withdrawn because there were no bidders. This left a hush in the auction room and more than some onlookers quite anxious. But the sale mustered decent numbers with 85% of the lots selling for a total of just over $74.2M including commissions, well within the pre-sale estimate.
Innocent onlookers watched as two phone bidders (bidding through Marc Porter and Brett Gorvy) competed with Jay Jopling of White Cube (probably bidding on behalf of Viktor Pinchuk) for the magnificent Peter Doig “Reflection (What Does Your Soul Look Like?),” which finally hammered down at over $10M including premiums. The audience was silent because many anticipated a bidding war given Doig’s previous success at auction and the conservative estimate. It is estimated that the seller bought it in 1996 for $11,000.
The first six lots of the sale hailed from the Merce Cunningham collection and were sold to benefit the Merce Cunningham Trust. In the introduction to the evening sale catalogue Christie’s explained the close relationship among Cunningham, Jasper Johns, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg and their allegiance to the philosophy that “art is based on context not material.” No work embodied this more than the Jeff Koons at Christie’s. However, the “New Shelton Wet/Dry 5-gallon, New Hoover Convertible Doubledecker” a sculpture which was simply the two aforementioned vacuums in plexiglass casing, yielded a handsome profit when it sold for a modest $2.5M, despite the seller having bought it for only $356,000 at Christie’s in 2000. In better economic times this work could have fetched double this amount.
The works from the Cunningham Collection were rather strong. A Guston painting sold for more than 3 times its low estimate, a strong Rauschenberg drawing that led off the auction also attracted a bidding war. And of course the best piece benefiting the trust, the Jasper Johns entitled “Dancers on a Plane” netted Christie’s $4.3M despite a $2M high estimate.
The 6-panel painting by Basquiat entitled “Brother Sausage” and being sold by none other than Peter Brant could not find a buyer and bidding ended at $7.5M, well below the $9M low estimate.
Jeff Koons was bailed out by Larry Gagosian. Bidding was at a minimum during Koons’ “Wishing Well” which ultimately went to Mr. Gagosian for $950,000 plus fees, well below the $1.2M low estimate.
Sotheby’s capped off a brilliant Contemporary Auction Wednesday night with an auction total of $134.4M, with only two passed lots and an unbelievable bidding war for the season’s highlight: Andy Warhol’s “200 One Dollar Bills” selling for $43.8M including estimates. Tobias Meyer, the auctioneer for the evening, began by saying let’s start the bidding on this work at $6M. Immediately a specialist raised his hand and said $12M, then a bidding frenzy ensued which included numerous bidders from Phillipe Segalot to Jose Mugrabi. The other star of the auction was the Andy Warhol, “Self-Portrait” which came from one of his former factory workers, Cathy Naso and sold for $6.1M despite an estimate of $1-$1.5M.
The Phillips du Pury evening sale was on Thursday night. The 42 lots were trimmed to 39 before the sale began and ended with a less than satisfying auction total of $5.8M (not including auction fees). There was a nice variety of established contemporary like Warhol, Ruscha, Prince and Koons as well as the flashier contemporary works that are less than 10 years old. The strongest lots went above their high estimates, but too many works missed their mark with over 20% of the lots passing. Just like last May’s auction, Phillips had a stunning Sherrie Levine which brought some more excitement beyond Simon du Pury’s auctioneering style. Levine’s “Untitled (Lead Knots: 7)” sold for $110k without premiums or fees, against a $60-$80k estimate. Phillips also showed the Banksy craze has not subsided by auctioning off a 2001 work for $320k, exclusive of premiums—above the $300k high estimate set on the work. Are we the only ones that think this Banksy market is completely overpriced and set to sink?