Monday, November 08, 2010


Bullish bids for important works of Impressionist and Modern art came in this past week from Russia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Quatar, Abu Dhabi and Singapore as well as other corners of the world.  The money comes from fortunes made in oil, gas, gold and other commodities.  Sotheby’s sold $227MM worth of impressionist and modern art last week.  Between $800MM and $1BB of art has sold or is planned for sale last week and this week by Sotheby’s and Christie’s, both prominent auction houses.   

The last major auction was in May 2008 before the financial crisis stemmed the tide, when the art market was down 30% according to Mei Moses All Art index which tracks publicly sold art.  2009 was described as “rocky” in the art market.  In the first half of 2010 returns were up 13%.
Recent “big time” art sales that set records included:

MATISSE: Monumental bigger-than-lifesize bronze sculpture of a woman’s back set a new record at Christies for this artist by selling for almost $49MM ($48,802,500).   Sale estimates were between $25-$30MM and a global bidding wear sent the price up. The piece, “Nu de dos, 4 etate (Back IV)” measures 74.5”.  This work was conceived by Matisse around 1930, but cast in 1978, 24 years after his death.  The piece is No.oo in a collection of 12, the first three versions conceived in 1909, 1913 and 1916-17 are at the Museum of Modern Art. Matisse’s "Danseuse dans le fauteuil, sol en damier," sold for $20.8MM.  Photo is from Christie’s Images Ltd.

MODIGLIANI: A life-sized painting sold at Sotheby’s for $69MM, and Modigliani’s circa 1917 seductive canvas, titled “Nu assis sur un divan (La Belle Romaine),” ["Nude Sitting on a Divan (The Beautiful Roman Woman),"] catapulted beyond a pre-sale estimate of about $40MM.  It sold back in 1999 at Sotheby’s for $16.7MM, which was a record at the time.  His previous record was $52.6, sold earlier this year in Paris.  

GRIS: “Violon et guitare” a cubist oil painting on canvas done in September 1913, sold for $28.64MM after estimates for $18-25MM.  It was sold by Marilyn Arison, wife of late billionaire Ted Arison and sold to benefit the nonprofit YoungArts.  In 1998 they paid $9.9MM for this work of art.  Gris regarded this Cubist still life as his ultimate masterpiece, according to Christie’s.

MONET’s: “Le Bassin aux Nympheas,” part of his iconic water lilies series, sold for $25.7MM.  Its format is awkwardly elongated.  Most of his coveted water lily paintings are in museums and some consider them, painted during the last 20 years of his life, his ultimate achievement.

ROTHCO: abstract painting, off the market for 40 years, could sell this week at Sotheby’s, estimate is between $20-$30MM.  PICASSO: “Man with a Flag” sold for $5.3MM. LEGER: His “Femme sur fond rouge, femme assise”, the stylized figure of a woman seated cross-legged, in black and white on a red background sold for $6.35MM. SEURAT: A black Conte crayon study of a woman standing is seen from the back with a feeling of time suspended and profound mystery as the shadowy figure seems about to enter an invisible world brought $4.3MM. GIACOMETTI: “His “Femme de Venise V,” a craggy, jagged elongated fiture case in 1958 in an edition of 6 brought in $10MM.

This week, Christies hopes to get $240MM from sales of works by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Koons, Richter and Rothco.

Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s had predicted a surge in demand ahead of this year’s autumn auctions, with the art market emerging from a slump triggered by the global financial crisis.

The jewelry market has surged ahead as well. The Bulgari Blue Diamond, designed in the 1970’s as a gift from a European collector to his wife on the birth of their first son, was bought for about $1MM at in 1972. It features two triangular-shaped diamonds, one colorless at 9.87 carats, the other a “fancy vivid” blue diamond is 10.95 carats.  The blue diamond is one in about 10 in existence with a color pure enough to qualify as “fancy vivid.” This is the largest blue diamond to have sold at auction. Photo credit: Reuters/CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2010/Handout/.

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