The Daily Telegraph

$300m auc­tion could keep in­ter­net sales surge go­ing

- Auctions · Sotheby's Auction House · Christie's · Francis Bacon · Francis Bacon · New York City · Ford Motor Company · Edsel · Jackson Pollock · Revlon · Ronald Perelman · Donald Trump · Paul Cézanne · Charles Saatchi · Mark Rothko · Willem de Kooning

When this col­umn last ap­peared in print five months ago, no one would have pre­dicted that on­line auc­tions of fine art at the top three auc­tion­eers, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips, would in­crease by 240 per cent in the first eight months of this year com­pared to last. But that is what hap­pened.

Yes, there has been a pre­cip­i­tous fall in rev­enue from real-life auc­tions, which all but ceased, leav­ing the mar­ket in neg­a­tive ter­ri­tory over­all. But, af­ter the steep drop from March to May, an in­ter­net-gen­er­ated re­cov­ery has hap­pened – sooner and more sharply than the re­cov­ery from the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

The key com­po­nent here is the num­ber of $1 mil­lion works of­fered. Be­fore March, they were as rare as hen’s teeth on the in­ter­net be­cause no one be­lieved they could sell there. But af­ter the sale­rooms got bolder on­line this sum­mer, they be­came al­most com­mon­place again, driv­ing the av­er­age price of art­works sold by the big three dur­ing those eight months up by 176 per cent from $9,500 last year to $25,300 (£19,500). Two sales by Sotheby’s and Christie’s, in which one Fran­cis Ba­con paint­ing made $84 mil­lion, gen­er­ated

$784 mil­lion.

This evening, Christie’s in New York is set­ting out to prove that the sum­mer ac­tion was no fluke with a live in­ter­net sale of mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art that is es­ti­mated to fetch over $300 mil­lion. Among the lots on of­fer is a de­li­cious still life water­colour of fruit and jug on a ta­ble that is set to break the record for a Cézanne water­colour at $25 mil­lion. It be­longed pre­vi­ously to Ford Mo­tor Com­pany heirs Edsel and Eleanor Ford, whose house was turned into a mu­seum af­ter their deaths.

An­other mu­seum dis­posal is a rare drip paint­ing by Jack­son Pol­lock es­ti­mated at $12 mil­lion to $18 mil­lion. The Ever­son Mu­seum will use the pro­ceeds to buy works by fe­male artists and artists of colour who are un­der-rep­re­sented in their col­lec­tion.

The big­gest pri­vate seller is Revlon owner Ron Perel­man. His busi­nesses have not been do­ing well. Once worth $20 bil­lion, Bloomberg rates his wealth at less than $4.5 bil­lion, hav­ing dropped out of its top 500 Bil­lion­aires In­dex. A “squig­gle” paint­ing by Cy Twombly (which Charles Saatchi once owned, sell­ing in the depths of the early Nineties re­ces­sion for $1.2 mil­lion) is Perel­man’s top dis­posal with an es­ti­mate of $35 mil­lion to

$50 mil­lion. He is also sell­ing a dark and moody ab­stract by Mark Rothko for $30 mil­lion to $50 mil­lion to­gether with a clas­sic ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist paint­ing of a woman by Willem de Koon­ing, which is hop­ing for $20 mil­lion to $30 mil­lion.

Such a sale would nor­mally be held in Novem­ber, but Christie’s de­cided to bring it for­ward while the ap­petite to sell was there, and well enough be­fore a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to avoid the un­cer­tainty that creeps into the mar­ket at elec­tion time. With Pres­i­dent Trump’s con­di­tion still un­con­firmed, though, some un­cer­tainty among buy­ers could be­come ap­par­ent. We’ll know more on that score later tonight.

 ??  ?? Record breaker: Cézanne’s still life is poised to break the record for a water­colour by the French artist
Record breaker: Cézanne’s still life is poised to break the record for a water­colour by the French artist

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