That Was Disappointing
While The Canvas will provide a more detailed analysis as the sales continue throughout the week, it goes without saying that last night's Impressionist & Modern art evening sale at Sotheby's was rather disappointing. Thirteen of the 45 lots offered in the sale failed to find buyers. And the undisputed (and much talked about) Modigliani nude, "Nu couche (sur la cote gauche)" sold to a lone phone bidder for $139 million ($157 million with the buyer's premium)- who sources say was the third-party guarantor for the work. Despite that being an astonishing sum and the fourth most expensive work ever sold at auction, the general feeling in the room was one of muted disappointment.
Even though other works like Picasso's "Le Repos" and Georgia O'Keeffe's "Lake George With White Birch" sold for $36.9 million and $11.3 million respectively, it was clear that Sotheby's did a poor job in eliciting sufficient interest for the sale as a whole and the Modigliani in particular.
The Canvas highly recommends Judd Tully's play-by-play for ArtNews (we've missed you Judd), and Eileen Kinsella's recap for Artnet for more detailed takes on last night's sale. In the meantime, check out and follow our new Instagram account for pictures, sales information, and news from the sales taking place throughout the week.
The Three Things People are Talking About
As Picasso's "Fillette à la corbeille fleurie" was brought into the sales room at the 19th & 20th century art evening sale of the Rockefellercollection last week, the crowd at Christie's held its collective breath. Despite there being some rumblings about the dour, slightly off-putting tone of the piece, many expected it to spark a heated bidding war culminating in a round of applause for the winner. Needless to say, that was unfortunately not the case. Christie’s global president, Jussi Pylkkänen opened the bidding at a cool $90 million and increased from there in $2 million increments until bidding stalled at a disappointing $102 million ($115 millionwith buyer's premium). Ultimately the Christie's sale of the Rockefeller collection was more about the marketing of the Rockefeller name (i.e the branding of the collection as a whole) than any one painting in particular (like last fall's Salvator Mundi). That, and a tactical error in upping the initial estimate from $70 million to $100 million led to the disappointment in the room we all witnessed last Tuesday. However, the disappointment for that one painting was almost entirely offset by the success of the collection as a whole (despite not reaching the much touted $1 billion target). Every lot on offer found a buyer in the May 8th evening sale, and the rest of the Rockefeller collection- from money clips to picnic sets- was met with wildly enthusiastic bidding from a large pool of buyers.
Ah what a world we live in. Ahead of last night's Sotheby's sale where Picasso's "Le Repos" fetched $36.9 million, Page Six reported last week that Sue Gross, wife of billionaire bond impresario Bill Gross swapped the original painting off their bedroom wall (amidst their divorce) and replaced it with a painting of her own. After a coin flip awarded her full custody of the painting (this story just gets better and better), Bill Gross tried to make the necessary arrangements for the painting to be transferred from his California house to his ex-wife, only to have her inform him that it was unnecessary as she already had the real painting. Take it from The Canvas folks, you have to read this story in full to believe it.
The Canvas is hearing a lot about video in the art world lately. Gagosian Quarterly's newly designed website places a lot of emphasis on video, and the gallery is spending a lot of money to keep the content flowing. Sotheby's is out with a new, slickly produced video series called The Fearless Now, with the first episode featuring Ai Weiwei in conversation with the rapper A$AP Rocky. Multiple galleries are investing in large form documentary style video projects to mark their anniversaries; which they can then show to both collectors and artists to tout their staying power and relevance in the wider art world. Sarah Harrelson's Cultured magazine has been producing more video content featuring artists and galleries for its website. And Art Basel released its newsletter last weak that had multiple video links in it, right after The Canvas called them out for lagging behind Frieze in that particular area. All of this is of course on top of the surfeit of video content that Christie's, Sotheby's, the Met, and the Whitney all regularly produce. It'll be interesting to see who will be next to jump more fully into the video well. TEFAF, David Zwirner, ArtNews, Hauser & Wirth, Pace, and wildcards like the Nahmad family are all strong possibilities.
Five Gallery Shows to See This Week
The Party Circuit
Phillips Contemporary Spring 2018 Dinner (Spotted: Edward Dolman, Marcus Samuelsson, Harry Macklowe)
El Museo Del Barrio 25th Annual Gala (Spotted: Marta Minujin, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Monica Vidal)
Sotheby's Honors the Studio Museum in Harlem (Spotted: Jon Batiste, Thelma Golden, Amy Cappellazzo, Paul Cejas, Jordan Casteel)