sexta-feira, 25 de maio de 2012


The art market may have simmered down, but the latest contemporary evening sales prove that a few artists are still in high demand ...
A little over a year ago, a contemporary evening auction unfolded like a Hollywood thriller, with billionaires in cameo roles and astronomical prices in lieu of stunts. Nowadays, a sale is more like a low-budget soap opera. In London this week, Sotheby’s and Christie’s put on solid performances in their new gritty genre.
Doig.jpgSotheby’s Contemporary Evening brought in a total of £25.5m ($41.9m) compared to £94.7m for the equivalent sale in June 2008, while Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening realised £19m compared to £86.2m total last year. Revenue is down to 2005-2006 levels, an indicator of just how quickly the bubble inflated. However, with only three of their 40 lots failing to find buyers, Sotheby’s enjoyed a very strong sell-through rate. Cheyenne Westphal, head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, explained, “In our re-calibrated market, you have to get everything just right. You have to look at each object and be very critical.” Christie’s also provided respectable sell-through, with only five of their 41 lots going unsold. As Christie’s Amy Cappellazzo put it, “The market is transacting. It’s found a new level. Americans were more active as underbidders than buyers.”
The prices of works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Richard Prince—the artists most closely associated with the boom—have dropped considerably in the past year. Mr Prince’s nurse paintings seem to offer a textbook case. In May 2005 a Prince work first cracked the million-dollar mark when “A Nurse Involved” sold for $1,024,000. By July 2008 another despoiled girl in uniform (“Overseas Nurse”) reached £3.8m ($7.5m, given a weak dollar at the time). Yet at Christie’s on Tuesday night, “Country Nurse” sold for £1.7m ($2.8m).
Private dealers are now in a rare position to put together some good inventory. At least that is the optimistic spin. Sotheby’s, for example, was offering three museum-quality Warhols from the esteemed Froelich collection. “Tunafish Disaster”, a queasy masterpiece from 1962, commanded £3.7m from a private collector on the phone, but “Hammer and Sickle” (1976) and “Diamond Dust Shoes” (1980) were bought below the low estimate by Alberto Mugrabi, a dealer.
The auctions also saw less ambivalent results. The market for the atmospheric paintings of Peter Doig remains deep. At Sotheby’s, “Almost Grown”—the catalogue's cover lot, consigned by Ben Brown, a British dealer, and his wife Louisa Guinness—met with multiple bidders, earning more than £2m. At Christie’s, “Night Playground” (pictured above), consigned by New Yorkers Joel and Sherry Mallin, realised £3m, the second-highest price for the artist at auction......

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