Category: Auctions

The Symbiosis of Private and Public Sales

July 9 2020

Image of The Symbiosis of Private and Public Sales

Picture: The Dealer's Eye via. Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

For those interested in the recent developments in the crossover between the auction houses and dealers, then this is a must-watch panel discussion. Tonight (9th July) Melanie Gerlis of the Financial Times and the Art Newspaper will be chairing a panel discussion on the theme The Artworld's Latest Merger: The Symbiosis of Private and Public Sales. This talk is part of the calendar of events arranged by London Art Week.

The panel includes Otto Naumann (Sotheby's), Stephen Ongpin (dealer) and Toby Campbell (Rafael Valls).

The panel discussion will go live today (9th July) at 5pm (BST) via. Zoom. Registration is required.

Gainsborough Letter at Auction

July 2 2020

Image of Gainsborough Letter at Auction

Picture: International Autograph Auction, Malaga

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A rare signed letter by the painter Thomas Gainsborough is coming up for auction later this month. Dated 29th September 1783, the letter written to the artist's sister discusses money matters. Amusingly, it makes reference to Thomas's brother John Gainsborough, whom the painter referred to as 'Scheming Jack' due to his many failed business ventures.

The letter carries an estimate of €6,000 - €9,000. If it makes its top estimate it won't be far off the price made by this original portrait that sold for £12,500 (inc. fees) at Sotheby's in 2010.

'Evening Sale' at Sotheby's

July 2 2020

Image of 'Evening Sale' at Sotheby's

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Sotheby's have announced that they are continuing to shake-up their usual calendar of summer sales. On 28th July 2020 they will be holding a special auction known as the 'Evening Sale' where high estimate works across the categories will be sold together in one sale. This includes artworks from Old Masters, Impressionist & Modern Art, Modern & Post-War British Art and Contemporary Art. One imagines that this sale will be held in the manner of their recent Modern & Contemporary Art auction.

Alongside the highly anticipated Rembrandt self-portrait, buyers will be able to bid on works by the likes of Picasso, Henry Moore, Chagall, Kandinsky and Léger. Here is the list of highlighted works thus far, which on the Old Master front includes a P Brueghel the Younger, Bosschaert the Elder, Van Goyen and a Turner. Andrew Fletcher, head of sales, has also just teased a fabulous Frans Hals portrait on his Instagram Account to be included in the sale.

In 2017 Christie's showed that it was possible to sell an old master painting in a contemporary art sale. That was an easy task for a Leonardo, perhaps. It will be exciting to see what happens, and whether the market is truly less concerned about categories as it has been in the past.*

The usual Old Master Paintings sales will be held online between 20-29 July 2020.

More updates as and when they are announced...

Update - Here is a link to that very fine portrait by Frans Hals, which carries as estimate of £2m - £3m.

* - See this recent post for more background information on this theme.

The Future of Auctions?

June 30 2020

Image of The Future of Auctions?

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Sotheby's held three gargantuan online sales yesterday evening. The prices achieved were equally enormous. The Contemporary Art Evening auction made $234.9m (inc. fees); The Impressionist and Modern Sale made $62.8m (inc. fees); and The Ginny Williams Collection Evening Sale made $65.5m (inc. fees).

The highlight of the three sales was Francis Bacon's Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus which made $84.6m(inc. fees), the third highest price for the artist achieved at auction.

Equally impressive was the way in which these online auctions were broadcasted. Instead of have a virtual countdown, as many of the recent Old Master auctions have been handled, the auction house set up a live saleroom with video links to departments with phone bids around the world. This certainly brings back the excitement of a live physical auction, which can sometimes be lost in the online-only format.

The auction house's website explains further:

During these unprecedented times, Sotheby’s worked quickly to revolutionize its marquee auctions, continuing to present world-class artworks in safe, engaging and new ways. In a dynamic, multi-camera event live streamed around the world, Sotheby’s auctioneer Oliver Barker conducted the three evening auctions from Sotheby's London, interacting via video with colleagues bidding in real time in New York, London and Hong Kong. This historic auction capped off a season of digital innovation, as Sotheby’s introduced a suite of new online features that delivered the full auction experience.

Christie's Merging Imp / Mod Departments

June 29 2020

Image of Christie's Merging Imp / Mod Departments

Picture: Christie's via. The New York Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News broke last week that the auction house Christie's will be merging its Impressionist and Post-War and Contemporary Art departments. This 'hybrid' sector will be known as '20/21', short for 20th / 21st century art.

The auction house has cited a few reasons for the shake-up. By far the most interesting reason is the following:

“Our clients don’t think in categories anymore,” [Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti] said. “It’s not only about restructuring and reorganizing, it’s because we truly believe there is a continuum in these three parts. I believe that contemporary art has roots in the beginning of the 20th century and that without Monet and Duchamp, we would not be able to understand today’s contemporary art.”

Press reports have also drawn attention to the tough economic conditions experienced by the auction house which may result in job losses. Also cited is the growing dominance of Post-war and Contemporary Art and the 'shrinking' Impressionist market.

It is considered by some to be rather old fashioned to think of art in categories these days. In this respect, perhaps the auction house are following the demands of the market. However imperfect the categorisation system may be, it is surprising that an auction house is risking loosing expertise built over many decades in such a crucial specialist department. Such valuable knowledge is so easily lost and can prove crucial in determining areas such as attribution, skilled forgeries and murky provenance issues.

The Dealer's Eye Results

June 25 2020

Image of The Dealer's Eye Results

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Dealer's Eye sales at Sotheby's ended today after 7 days worth of online bidding.

The results are a mixed bag. The London leg of the sale made £1.03m with roughly 48% of lots sold, and the New York leg of the sale made $1.78m with roughly 57% of lots sold.

Several impressive results were achieved, including a landscape by Caspar Wolf that made $250,000 over $100k-$150K; a bird of prey by Carstian Luyckx that made $100,000 over $25-$35k; a picture by Hendrick van Cleve III that made $93,750 over $50k-$70k; a religious picture by Luigi Garzi that made $50,000 over $20k-$30k; a Turner sketch that made £25,000 over £12k-£18k. This extremely fine John Robert Cozens, a picture that might not immediately be considered the most commercial image, made a respectable £150,000. I can't for the life of me understand why this lovely unfinished self-portrait by John Hamilton Mortimer failed to sell.

Overall, these two sales represented a very bold and brave experiment that was worth pursuing during the uncertain times that we are in.

The artworks and dealers involved are all of the highest calibre. It may therefore be a little surprising why the sale didn't do better. Why was this? Firstly, the art market tends to react well to pictures that are considered 'fresh onto the market'. This is particularly the case where incorrectly catalogued 'sleepers' are involved. It is therefore sometimes difficult to shake off the idea that such collaborations represent 'stock-sales', however fine the pictures might be. Many collectors may well have encountered these pictures at several fairs too.

The estimates overall seemed reasonable, yet, it is clear from previous online sales that works that bear the lowest estimates always manage to tempt lots of bidders. No one can resist a good bargain, even in the world of old masters it seems.

One interpretation might be that dealers are struggling during these unprecedented times and auction houses far less so. Let's hope that both manage to survive intact after the worst of the virus crisis is over.

Christie's Results

June 22 2020

Image of Christie's Results

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Christie's recent online old master paintings sale in NY made $2.95m (including fees) with approximately 69.7% of lots sold.*

This is marginally more that the $2.89m Sotheby's made the previous week although 12.6% down on lots sold.

A few of the most impressive results (all prices inc. fees): a limoges plaque by either Jean or Joseph Limousin made $225,000 over $30k-$50k, a sixteenth century Netherlandish School Head of Christ made $162,500 over $15k-$20k, a rather dark Jacob de Backer made $399,000 over $80k-120k (pictured).

In a previous post I highlighted a beautiful Fragonard portrait of a child that Christie's had up for private sale with an asking price of $125,000. The same picture was included in the sale and made $50,000.

It was this painting of a man holding a recorder that intrigued me the most. Catalogued as 'French School' it seems likely to be some sort of forgotten self-portrait. I showed it to a learned recorder player last week who informed me that the gentleman probably wasn't a genuine player due to the fact his hands are the wrong way around. 

* - This is an approximate number, as Christie's remove unsold lots from their website. 97 out of 139 lots are shown as sold.

Degas Copies Thomas Lawrence

June 22 2020

Image of Degas Copies Thomas Lawrence

Picture: Hampel Auctions

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A copy of Thomas Lawrence's Miss Murray by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) is coming up for sale in Munich next month. Lawrence's original, which is now at Kenwood House, was created between 1824-26 and is a superb piece of painting. The flowers which she holds had always struck me as being entirely proto-impressionistic. As a painter of ballerinas, I can understand why Degas must have been drawn to this image.

Degas's picture carries an estimate of €420,000 - €500,000. The same work sold at Sotheby's as recently as last year where it made £200,000 (inc. fees).

Study for Versailles Painting up for Auction

June 19 2020

Image of Study for Versailles Painting up for Auction

Picture: Millon

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This very fine unpublished head study by François Lemoyne (1688-1737) is coming up for sale at Millon in France on 1st July. It relates Lemoyne's masterpiece The Apotheosis of Hercules (1731-6) which graces the ceiling of the Hercules Room at the Palace of Versailles. There is another related head study by the artist in the British Museum.

The estimate for this work on paper is €40,000 - €60,000, and has been given its own sale by the looks of it. One to keep your eye on!

Picasso's Palette

June 19 2020

Image of Picasso's Palette

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A palette used by Pablo Picasso made £56,250 (inc. fees) yesterday at Sotheby's. The reverse of the palette bears the date of 17th June 1961 and had descended with the artist's granddaughter.

Sleeper Alert!

June 18 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Aguttes

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News on Twitter (via @AuctionRadar) that this portrait catalogued as 'Workshop of Rembrandt' just made €350,000 over an estimate of €12,000 - €15,000 at the auction house Aguttes in France.

BA to Sell Off Art Collection

June 17 2020

Image of BA to Sell Off Art Collection

Picture: Artwise Curators

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

My attention has been drawn to the news that British Airways have announced plans to sell off the company's art collection. The collection includes art by Damien Hirst, Bridget Riley and Peter Doig. Ten works have been identified for sale, in order to raise a seven figure sum, presumably intended to help plug the gap in the airline's finances due to the COVID crisis.

The picture above shows a silk tapestry by Gary Hume (1998) which hangs in BA's Lounge at Heathrow Airport. I can hardly imagine a less inspiring place.

I'm sure a fine old master painting or two would enhance their lounges!

Quiz: Find the Original

June 12 2020

Image of Quiz: Find the Original

Picture: Wannenes Auctions

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The above painting of Saint Paul, catalogued as 'pittore del XVIII secolo', is coming up for sale at Wannenes Auctions in Genoa. It is a copy of a known painting. Can you find the original?

No prizes, just for fun.

Update - Congratulations to readers Andrew Quick and Bob Hawkins who spotted that the above is a version of Batoni's Saint Paul found in the collection of Basildon Park, Berkshire, now in the hands of the National Trust.

Sotheby's NY Results

June 12 2020

Image of Sotheby's NY Results

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Yesterday's Sotheby's old master paintings sale in NY brought in a total of $2.89m (including fees) with roughly 82.3% of the 152 lots sold. The sale was conducted entirely online.

There were several impressive results achieved (all prices inc. fees). The above portrait by Lavinia Fontana made $187,500 over an estimate of $40k - $60k. A sweet Caspar Netscher made $250,000 over an estimate of $40k - $60k. A portrait attributed to Tintoretto, sold by the San Diego Museum of Art, made a very respectable $112,500 over an estimate of $10k - $15k. Equally, this sumptuous Danaë by Jacob van Loo made $275,000 over an estimate of $100k - $150k.

Lots sold without reserve all seemed to do rather well, a sign that no one can resist a good bargain perhaps.

Emma Hamilton's Hair

June 10 2020

Image of Emma Hamilton's Hair

Picture: Charles Miller Ltd.

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A lock of Emma Hamilton's hair is coming up for sale at Charles Miller Ltd. next month.

Lady Emma Hamilton (1765-1815) was a celebrated performer, muse and celebrity in late Georgian Britain. Her likeness was captured many times by leading artists including the likes of Romney, Reynolds, Vigée Le Brun and Kauffman. She is more widely known for having become the mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson.

The lock was previously owned by the antiquarian Alfred Morrison who published a catalogue of Emma and Nelson's correspondence in 1893-4. The estimate for this curious piece of history is £500-£700.

Sleeper Alert!

June 10 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Drouot

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The above painting catalogued as 'Attributed to Sebastiano Ricci'  made €107,950 over an estimate of €2,500 - €3,500 at Beaussant Lefèvre yesterday. The painting had been attributed to Coypel in the past.

Another lot offered in the same sale was this bronze statue by the sixteenth century master Ponce Jacquio which made €1,460,500. The work is reported to have been purchased by the Louvre.

La Biennale Dealers Offered Christie's Sale Instead

June 9 2020

Image of La Biennale Dealers Offered Christie's Sale Instead

Picture: Luxus Plus

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Interesting news in the Antiques Trade Gazette today that dealers who were due to exhibit at the now cancelled La Biennale Paris in September will be offering artworks in an online sale at Christie's instead. Objects will range from antiquities to contemporary art in this special sale to help support the fifty dealers who are usually involved in the fair.

The fair's president and fellow dealer Georges de Jonckheere is quoted saying:

La Biennale Paris is an event organised by dealers for dealers.  It is essential that we support the profession in this unprecedented crisis with new and appropriate initiatives. Christie’s wide reach and extensive capacities worldwide will bring great visibility to dealers and will enable them to reach out to new collectors.

One imagines that the successful Rafael Valls and Danny Katz sales at Sotheby's may have demonstrated that close collaboration between dealers and auction houses can produce impressive results during these unprecedented times.

I wonder exactly how estimates will be negotiated. Selling artworks wholesale, which is how auction houses operate, usually strips off a lot of the mark-up that dealers often place on works. Auction house specialists attending big fairs such as TEFAF must delight in reminding collectors of the savings they could have made if they had purchased so-and-so when it was originally offered in their rooms.

Sotheby's to Auction Rembrandt Self Portrait

June 7 2020

Image of Sotheby's to Auction Rembrandt Self Portrait

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Exciting news breaking this evening that Sotheby's will be offering a recently rediscovered Self Portrait by Rembrandt in their July sale.

The portrait was seemingly rejected by art historians in 1970 but experts have changed their minds. Reports suggest that this is partly due to new scientific analysis undertaken on the work. Dendrochronology samples have proven that the painting's panel support came from the same tree as used in Rembrandt's portrait of Maurits Huygens in the Hamburg Kunsthalle.

The painting will be offered on 28th July 2020 in London with an estimate of £12m - £16m.

Update - Further press articles have explained that the picture was with Noortman Master Paintings in the mid 2000s where it was acquired by the current owner. It seems that it was also exhibited at TEFAF in this period. The self portrait was exhibited at the Rijksmuseum in 1997 and the National Gallery, London, in 1999. I'll post the full catalogue entry when it is made available in due course.

Update 2 - Here is the official press release from Sotheby's.

Van Meegeren's Ter Borch

June 7 2020

Image of Van Meegeren's Ter Borch

Picture: Uppsala Auktionskammare

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

An old master painting once owned by the notorious forger Han van Meegeren (1889-1947) is coming up for sale in Sweden this month.

The Music Lesson, catalogued as by Gerard Ter Borch and Studio, was sold by the forger's estate sale in 1950 where it was purchased by the present owner. It was featured in a recent exhibition comparing it against all other known variations Ter Borch made with this particular composition. The auction house has shown in the catalogue note that the provenance of the work can be traced back to the eighteenth century and was even previously owned by Frederick Duke of York.

The auctioneer has also published the accompanying note on his Instagram account;

Technical examination of the painting through X Ray Fluorescence in selected spots and scanning MA-XRay Fluorescence of the whole surface, revealed the presence of modern pigments containing zinc and cadmium in several areas. As zinc sulfide was only developed around 1850, these findings indicate a modern intervention which is likely to have been carried out by Han van Meegeren.

The painting will be offered on 16th June with an estimate of 400,000 - 600,000 SEK / €38,000 - €57,000.

Early Boucher Discovered in Wardrobe

June 5 2020

Image of Early Boucher Discovered in Wardrobe

Picture: Gazette Drouot

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Gazette Drouot has published news that the auction house Daguerre have discovered an early work by François Boucher (1703-1770) in a wardrobe of a private house.

The work dating to the 1720s shows a young man playing the hurdy gurdy (click to listen to a music clip), an instrument that was rather popular in eighteenth century France. It was last sold from the collection of Vicomte Beuret in 1924 where it was described as 'attributed to Boucher'.

This rare early work is coming up for sale at Daguerre's sale on 23rd June with an estimate of €40,000 - €60,000. It seems very likely that the final price will soar past this tempting estimate!

Update - The painting made 494,000 (inc. fees).

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