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May 07, 2008

Christies Impressionist Auction Total falls Below the Low end of the range

It's HAMMER Time in NYC my little MOA-ettes!

Sadly.. last night Christies first attempt didn't do so well with their big Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale.

Of the significantly pair back auction of only 58 Lots.. 14 failed to find a buyer. Ouch! A 24% failure rate! Not good!

Several Picasso's, a Monet, a Matisse, and even a  Gauguin (pre-sale est $4 to $6 million) which was stated in the catalog as "The appearance of Gauguin's Le rêve, moe moea in this sale is a most fortuitous event." all went unsold.

Giacometti_femme_debout_ii One of the only successful lots of the auction was the amazing 8+ feet tall, Alberto Giacometti, Grande femme debout II sculpture.. which sold for a record $27,481,000. Nice!!

So.. maybe Impressionist art is just way out of favor with the billionaire jet set. MAO remembers the last round of super high end impressionist and modern sales last fall in London which also failed to meet expectations... but the following Contemporary Art auctions still managed to go reasonably well.

I feel a cold breeze... but we shall see next week!!

Here's some additional commentary from Lindsay Pollock and Philip Boroff at Bloomberg news..

    May 7 (Bloomberg) -- Monet and Rodin failed to prevent
Christie's International from missing its low estimate for an
evening impressionist and modern art auction for the first time
in four years.
     Last night's sale in New York totaled $277.3 million as 14
of the 58 lots failed to find buyers. The auction had been
projected to tally $287 million to $405 million. Europeans,
taking advantage of a weaker dollar, bought more than half the
lots, while U.S. buyers took 32 percent, compared with almost
half at the previous impressionist sale in November.
     The result suggests that at least $318 billion of credit
losses and writedowns at banks, a slump in the U.S. currency and
a dip in global equity markets may have slowed the international
art market.
     ``It's a rational market that is slightly more rational
than the last go-around,'' said John Good, a director of
Gagosian Gallery.
     Christie's said last night's total was still its third-
highest for the category. The top lot was a $41.5 million
cerulean blue painting by Claude Monet, showing an iron railway
bridge over the Seine, near Paris. Christie's estimated that
``Le Pont du Chemin de Fer a Argenteuil'' would fetch about $40
million. An anonymous phone bidder set a record for the artist,
outspending the previous high set last year by about $5 million.
     The seller was the Nahmad art-dealing family, which bought
the work for $12.4 million at Christie's in 1988.

                         Monet Lilies

     ``I'm very happy,'' patriarch David Nahmad said, standing
in the crowded aisle of the Rockefeller Center salesroom after
the auction. He was outbid for the evening's second-priciest
Monet, the 1908 ``Nympheas,'' which fetched $11.7 million.
     The evening's rejects included a garishly colored Venetian
vista by Monet, estimated at up to $12 million; a tepid Van Gogh
landscape, with a high estimate of $16 million; and a portrait
of a chubby nude maiden by Renoir with a $5 million to $7
million range.
     A dearth of museum-quality impressionist and modern
paintings shifted the focus to sculpture, which accounted for 3
of the top 10 lots.
     Alberto Giacometti's 1960 ``Grand Femme Debout II,'' a 9-
foot-tall bronze of a woman, fetched an artist record $27.5
million, well above the $18 million estimate. The winning bidder
was Gagosian Gallery, which declined to comment on the purchase.
The artwork was one of five abstract forms in plaster and bronze
by postwar Swiss sculptor Giacometti. Sotheby's offers another
six Giacomettis tonight.


     ``Grand Femme'' is an attenuated female figure, with a tiny
Kate Moss-like waist and stick-like arms. It was originally a
commission for Chase Manhattan Bank's Wall Street headquarters.
Giacometti didn't visit the site, or New York, and the work was
never installed there.
     French sculptor Auguste Rodin also smashed records with his
1897 bronze ``Eve,'' estimated to sell for $9 million to $12
million. It fetched $19 million.
     The anonymous seller acquired the sculpture for $4.8
million at Christie's in New York in 1999 and displayed the work
outdoors. Eve has muscular crossed arms and her graceful head is
tucked in shame.
     Sale prices include a buyer's commission of 25 percent of
the hammer price up to $20,000, 20 percent of the price from
$20,000 to $500,000 and 12 percent above $500,000. Estimates do
not include commissions.
     Christie's sold $395 million of impressionist and modern
art at its November sale in New York. The dollar is down more
than 12 percent against the euro in the past year and reached a
record low of $1.6019 per euro on April 22.

     (Lindsay Pollock and Philip Boroff write on the arts for
Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)


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When there's a correction in the marketplace, there is a range of unsold works that should be acceptable. 24% isn't so bad. Anything lower would suggest that the buoyant market was status quo. Anything significantly higher would indicate that there are serious problems.

Several works should not have been offered at Christie's yesterday evening. One fellow auction-attendee suggested to this writer that one particular work didn't belong at any kind of public auction. The condition of the marketplace wouldn't necessarily have played a role in the outcome of such lots.

The auction houses are resourceful when it comes to revising strategies for selecting works on consignment, marketing auctions, etc. A 24% unsold rate should provide them with enough incentive to make changes and reduce the unsold rate in November.

I think this line says it all..

"A dearth of museum-quality impressionist and modern
paintings shifted the focus to sculpture, which accounted for 3
of the top 10 lots"

I just proves, quality will always be in demand.. but average works.. are difficult to sell even in a strong art market.

I hate the fact that every major sale attracts massive amounts of speculation regarding changes to the art market that never seem to eventuate. Instead of focusing on when the art market will correct those people that approach fine art as an investment should be focusing on ensuring that their collection is structured to be as correction proof as it can be. If people prepared for a correction now instead of speculating about the future they won't be as surprised when the correction does take hold.

Nicholas Forrest

a uniqe painting on canvas of st. jojn the pabtist,owend by a family from jeneration to jenaration,no match seen not even in churches.some believe it is the missing one,we would like to e mail you and hear your opinian and hopefully get intuch.
thank you in advance

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Let's face it, over a hundred years later we are still talking about the Impressionists as if they were contemporaries. The last great art movement was Abstract Imprssionism and those artists only enjoyed a small share of the market. More recent movements like Op, Pop and Minimalism were rather insignificant.

Today most non painter art sites are only concerned with idea art and not quality execution. As a painter I know that the dream is the easy part, it is bringing the dream to fruition which is difficult.

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