Art buying reflects recovering rich
Contemporary works fetch $75m in bidding competition ‘reminiscent of 18 months ago’
DESPITE major casualties, Christie’s managed to meet expectations this week at its uneven auction of post-war and contemporary art.
The sale, at which 85 percent of the 46 lots found buyers, saw briskly competitive bidding in a packed saleroom, taking in $74 151 500 (about R553 million) including commission, right in the middle of the auction house’s presale estimate. But both of the most expensive lots – Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Brother Sausage, estimated at $9m to $12m, and Andy Warhol’s Tunafish Disaster, estimated at $6m to $8m – failed to sell. Other works spawned protracted bidding wars, notably Peter Doig’s Reflection (What Does Your Soul Look Like?) that soared to $10 162 500, twice the presale estimate.
Amy Cappellazzo, Christie’s international co-head of contemporary art, said the competition was “reminiscent of 18 months ago” – when the art market boom was at its peak and just before the financial crisis sent prices plummeting.
Works by Jeff Koons, Don- ald Judd, Jasper Johns and Alexander Calder also achieved strong prices, some selling for more than twice their high estimates.
Christie’s tried to keep estimates conservative, or “attractive”, as officials put it, and the strategy often paid handsomely in a market still struggling to find its price points.
“These results reflected a market that is sophisticated, focused and determined in its buying activity,” said Marc Porter, president of Christie’s Americas.
The Basquiat, the top-esti- mated work in two weeks of sales at Christie’s and rival Sotheby’s, and the Warhol, suffered from an appeal limited to a “small, dedicated group” of collectors, Cappellazzo said, despite their “museum quality”.
“It was too intellectual a painting for this market,” her partner Brett Gorvy said of the Basquiat. Before the sale it was announced that another Warhol had been withdrawn.
US buyers accounted for 82 percent of the sale, Europeans 13 percent, Asians and others 2.5 percent each. – Reuters