Christie's Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale Highlights, News, & Links- May 16th Edition

Auction Report

The 2017 spring auction season kicked off at Christie's last night. The auction's total of $258 million (not including buyers' premium) fell squarely between high and low estimates of $207 million to $307 million, but the total with premium, $289.2 million, was over double last year's $141.5 million.

With with 43 of the 55 lots on offer finding buyers, spokespeople said after the sale that $289.2 million represented the house's highest total for the sector in 7 years. But you wouldn't have known it having been there. The mood in the room was unusually quiet, with most lots selling with around two bidders, usually for within the estimate.

The evening's top lot by far was Constantin Brâncuși's "La muse endormie" (1913), which hammered for $51 million after nine minutes of enthusiastic bidding between four bidders, eventually selling to former Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer, who'd jumped in at $34 million and once said, "the best art is the most expensive because the market is so smart.” Maybe he was right, in general and in particular, because very little else on offer seemed to stir much attention in the room.

Early on Georges Braque's "Le Guéridon" (1911) hammered well above its high estimate for $8.8 million with just three bidders on the phone, the sort of thing that might garner applause but last night did not. Later when Picasso's "Femme assise, robe bleue" (1939) sold for $45 million, literally one person tried to clap, but no one joined him. (Maybe they'd all seen the work at Christie's London in 2011, when it sold for $21.9 million?) But all in all a good showing in a tricky art market.

News & Links

Thirst for Hirst?- ICYMI, ARTnews has a report out that Damien Hirst's latest critically savaged show “Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” at Francois Pinault’s two grand venues, the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana in Venice, is a hit. "[I]t seems like the collector class really, really loves it," the report says. Hmmm. So why didn't anyone go on the record as having bought anything? Even if this is just positive spin from Hirst's patrons, it's worth reading to hear their angle. [ARTnews]

Lion for Imhof- Anne Imhof, the German multidisciplinary artist, has won Venice's coveted Golden Lion award for her exhibition "Faust" at the German pavillion. "Imhof blocked the front door of the German pavilion, built during the Nazi era, and installed a raised glass floor through which a leather collar and bottles of hand sanitizer were visible. A dozen performers in black athletic wear posed and preened among spectators or on raised platforms. They crawled under the glass floor at times and walked slowly, like wraiths, against a harsh metallic musical score." There were also Dobermans. [NYT


This week's auctions will feature works from the estate of Emily and Jerry Spiegel... at both Christie's and Sotheby's. Estates usually only go to one house. Sow did it come to pass that their daughters decided to go with different auction houses? Katya Kazakina has the story. A family feud helped. So did Alex Rotter. [Bloomberg]

Extra Reading

If you're looking for a more detailed play-by-play of last night's sale, check out Judd Tully's recap over on ArtInfo here, Nate Freeman's report for ArtNews here, or Eileen Kinsella's recap for Artnet here.  Otherwise, you can always check out Christie's own recap of the evening (bonus- it includes a well produced video). 

Alex Greenberger has an interesting (albeit short) interview with Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani of the new Institute of Arab & Islamic Art over on ArtNews. 

West Bank heritage sight must be more inclusive, says Israeli high court by Lauren Gelfond Feldinger for The Art Newspaper.  
And if you want to read about something that'll never end up happening, check out Robin Scher's interview with the head of communications for ARTSTAQ which bills itself as a kind of NASDAQ stock exchange for the art market via ArtNews. 


Marcus Lupertz at Michael Werner on May 18th

Shirin Neshat at Gladstone Gallery on May 19th

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