Sotheby’s evening sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in London on 24 June totalled £33,531,150 (including premium) from 23 lots sold – an average of £1,457,876 per lot, which is about the same as a typical New York wine auction would total from 1,000+ lots.
The 85.2 percent sell-through rate was the best for an evening sale in this category since last June, claimed Sotheby’s.
The top lot was Picasso’s Homme à l’épée, which sold to a private collector for £6,985,250. Clearly, despite the ongoing doom and gloom about the global economy, there are still people that can afford to spend nearly £7 million on a Picasso painting.
The previous evening, Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale made £37,235,550 (including premium) from 30 lots, a clearance of rate of only 68 percent.
The highest bid was £6,313,250 for Monet’s Au Parc Monceau, the painting that I had poked and prodded a few days beforehand. Another of Picasso’s Homme à l’épée paintings made £5,753,250, having sold for £2 million in 2005.
At first glance, the prices are impressive, but the Picasso sold within its estimate even with the premium added. The 14 lots that didn’t sell reveal the true state of the art market. These were “mid-range” works priced mostly between £300,000-600,000, a nebulous area for auctioneers at the moment. High quality work continues to sell well, albeit at lower prices than might have been seen two years ago, but lesser works that were clearly over-priced are now a more challenging sell for the auction houses.