Last week's fall art auction season opening was not an exceptional one for both art auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's, according to a recent New York Times article. It was widely reported that both premier art auction houses had padded their respective sales with so-called "mediocre material" and buyers were privy to this. The atmosphere was described as "lifeless" with "mediocre" results as artworks by such renowned artists, including Picasso, Miro, Chagall, and Leger, failed to garner at least one bid.
While Christie's auction last Wednesday night had been difficult, it ended up with more high-priced works than its competitor Sotheby's, which likewise struggled in sales below estimates last Thursday night. Christie's total sales reached $204.8 million in which 48 of the 69 artworks sold, or 70 percent. Sotheby's, on the other hand, had total sales of $163 million in which 46 of the 67 artworks sold, or 69 percent.
Later in the evening at Christie's, the auction's feature highlight, a 1905 version of Monet's "Water Lilies" fetched $39 million (or $43.7 million including Christie's fees), which was well within its estimate of $30 million to $50 million, as reported by the New York Times. Another top seller of the evening was a 1909 modern painting by Kandinsky entitled "Study for Improvisation 8," which sold to a telephone bidder for $20.5 milliion (or $23 million including Christie's fees), within its estimate of between $20 million and $30 million. The sale represented a record price for Kandinsky at the auction. Christie's also offered sculptures, which have been a popular seller in past seasons. Giacometti's painted bronze head "Tete Sans Crane," and Brancusi's plaster "Une Muse" showed strong sales in the amounts of $5.2 million and $12.4 million, respectively.
At Sotheby's the following evening, Picasso's portrait "Still Life with Tulips," which had been estimated to sell for $35 million to $50 million, sold for $41.5 million from an unidentified telephone buyer. The painting depicts the artist's mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, posed as a statue atop a plinth. Of the top ten sellers, five were by Picasso, which made the Spanish artist the evening's undisputed star at last Thursday's auction. One of the auction's few Impressionist paintings offered that evening, Monet's 1881 "Champ de Ble," which was owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art, brought in $12.1 million, well above its estimate of $5 million to $7 million.