Monday, February 09, 2009

Sales Calm Jittery Art Market

The Financial Times reports that predictions of an art market meltdown were confounded in London this week as six sales of impressionist, modern and contemporary art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s turned in solid results. The art auction houses managed to restore confidence to a jittery market with successful sales by radically shrinking the size of the catalogue and lowering estimates compared with last year. Some distress selling is, however, beginning to filter through. Among the week’s highlights were a classic impressionist painting by Monet that fetched £11.2m ($16.5m), a Degas sculpture that sold for £13.3m and a carved stack of cartoon-like animals by Jeff Koons that made £2.8m. The day sales, which offer more moderately priced works, also proved successful. “We feel a lot better than we did a week ago,” said James Roundell, a London art dealer. “At best, people thought the sales would be patchy. These results send a positive message to the market.” Sotheby’s two sales of impressionist and modern art this week totalled £43.9m, compared with the £144.4m it garnered in February last year. Christie’s three sales made £82.5m; last year they fetched £136.5m. Sotheby’s pared-down auction of contemporary art this week made £17.9m, with just two of the 27 lots remaining unsold. Last year the same sale made a record-breaking £95m. While distress selling is starting to appear in the market, few works could be positively identified as having come from collectors hit by the global financial crisis. At Sotheby’s, Jerome Fisher, the art collector and owner of Nine West shoes who reportedly lost large sums through investments with Bernard Madoff, is believed to have been the consignor of a large Degas pastel showing two dancers, estimated at £3.5m-£4.5m. The painting attracted no bids and went unsold at £2.9m. At Christie’s, five works came from a buyer who had failed to pay after winning them in February last year. They returned to the saleroom this week, incurring a big loss for the vendor. The most expensive, Alexej von Jawlensky’s expressionist portrait of a sulky girl, “Mädchen mit roter Schliefe” (1911), was the cover lot for Christie’s catalogue last year when it sold to a “private European” for £2.9m. This time it sold for £1.9m. More moderate losses hit Kandinsky’s colourful watercolour of psychologist Poul Bjerre in a Swedish landscape, which sold for £433,250 – the buyer had paid £670,100 for it last year. A Sisley riverscape bought last year for £446,100 sold for £385,250 this week. While estimates and prices have dropped sharply in the art market, a few vendors still turned a profit. The Degas “Petite danseuse de quatorze ans” (cast in 1922) consigned by Sir John Madejski, Reading football club’s owner, made £13.3m at Sotheby’s – he bought it in February 2004 for just over £5m. The sculpture went to a Japanese buyer benefiting from the strong yen, which has gained 35 per cent against the pound over the past year. The Koons sculpture,“Stacked” (1988), which made £2.8m at Sotheby’s on Thursday, had been bought in 1997 for $250,000 by Richard Cooper, a Chicago collector. (For full source and full article click the Headline). Irish Art