Monday, May 24, 2010

....from Swimming to the White Elephant

Lynn, do you collect anything?
Yes, I collect friends, music and occasionally broken green pottery.
Why broken green pottery?
I like green pottery and I feel sorry for the broken ones.
When and how did you get into the appraisal of antiques?
Through my husband's Comedy Club, Rascal's, back in the early 90s. Seemed like a seamless transition from Competitive Swimming.
How's that?
He had a restaurant called "The White Elephant," which required frequent replenishment of "things to sell." I was a buyer for them. Obviously I used my very special swimming techniques.
Thanks, Lynn, for filling us all in. Now we know.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

HNWI + Art = Investment

WSJ, Kelly Crow:

Christie's International auctioned $232 million of post-war and contemporary art at its evening sale in New York on Tuesday, led by a record-setting $28.6 million waxy painting of an American flag by Jasper Johns.

"Flag," which was completed in 1966 and hung for decades in the home of the late "Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton, sold to New York art adviser Michael Altman. It was priced to sell for up to $15 million.

Mr. Crichton's collection of colorful, mid-century artworks helped the sale beat Christie's own presale expectations as well as eclipsing the house's $93.7 million sale last May -- proving collectors are once again willing to chase after newer works that carry the right pedigree.

The mood was chipper throughout the sale, with collectors like hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen and former superagent Michael Ovitz taking spots in skyboxes overlooking the auction house's crowded sales room, where others like entrepreneur Eli Broad and author Salman Rushdie took their seats. Two men on the front row wore ballcaps: fashion designer Marc Jacobs and fund manager John Angelo, who sits on rival Sotheby's board.

Yet the night unquestionably belonged to Jasper Johns, the artist from Georgia whose seminal series of late 1950s and 1960s depictions of flags, targets and alphabets represent some of the earliest examples of Pop art. Christie's sold eight of the artist's works for a combined $43.6 million, including the $4.1 million "Figure O."

The sale's other big winner was Andy Warhol, whose 1965 diptych of a lavender-faced Elizabeth Taylor, "Silver Liz," sold for $18.3 million, above its $15 million high estimate. Warhol's portraits of Hollywood starlets like Ms. Taylor or Marilyn Monroe are among his most coveted pieces, and at least four bidders competed for "Liz," with New York dealer Dominique Levy getting it.

The Christie's sale also amounted to a test of Robert Rauschenberg's market. Three telephone bidders went after his 1960-61 "Studio Painting" – one of the artist's so-called "Combines" because he hung a small bag on a clothesline that runs between the work's pair of painted canvases. A Christie's specialist who often represents Parisian collectors won it for $11 million, over its $9 million high estimate. A Rauschenberg silkscreen, "Trapeze," also sold for $6.3 million. (Final prices, unlike estimates, include the auction house's additional fee.)

Altogether, 74 of the 79 works offered found buyers, helping the sale reach 98% of its potential total value -- one of the most successful showings since the recession. The Crichton estate's 31 pieces alone sold for $93.3 million, against a $69.6 million high estimate. The sale broke at least five records for artists including Johns, Mark Tansey, Sam Francis, Lee Bontecou and Christopher Wool. Around 74% of the offerings went to American buyers, the auction house said.

Other sellers included Mr. Ovitz: Christie's helped him sell a pair of works, including Neo Rauch's surreal café painting, "Seek," for $1 million. The work had been priced to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million. Mr. Ovitz also sold Eric Fischl's 1984 image of a nude woman basking in her own reflection, "Vanity," for $1 million.

Sotheby's holds its post-war and contemporary sale on Wednesday, and boutique auctioneer Phillips de Pury follows on Thursday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Results: Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art

On Tuesday Christie's held its New York Impressionist and Modern Art Sale. We already know of the auction record price of $106.5 million including buyers premium for the Picasso, but what about the rest of the sale, which included additional property from the Brody collection. The sale offer 69 lots with 56 selling for a buy through rate of 81%. The evening sale totaled $335.55 million including buyers premium. Of course nearly a third of that came from the Picasso. Other notable sales were Giacometti works taking the number 2, 3 and 4 spots selling for $20.8 million, $25.8 million and $53.3 million (see image). All three Giacometti pieces beat the high estimate. I guess the previous auction record price earlier this year helped with the Giacometti results. Picasso also had three other pieces in the top ten. All top ten buyers were listed as anonymous. Christie's Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie's Americas stated
This was a stellar night for Christie's and for the art market. The sale was led by exceptional prices for works by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti and Henri Matisse from the Brody Collection, one of the greatest private collections to come to market. In addition, we witnessed great depth of bidding and strong results for important works from other American and European collections, including additional paintings by Picasso and works by Giacometti and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. We are honored to have been entrusted with so many remarkable works this season, and we are delighted to have delivered such positive results, including three new world auction records for Picasso, Georges Braque, and Jean-François Raffaelli." The star lot of the evening, and the most anticipated work to come to market from private hands in the last decade, was Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, a sensuous and stunning masterpiece from Picasso’s celebrated 1932 series of paintings depicting his muse and mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. Referred to as the “lost” 1932 Picasso because it had never before been published in color, Nude Green Leaves, and Bust was acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Brody in 1950 for $17,000 from the art dealer Paul Rosenberg. It had been exhibited in public only once since its purchase, at a 1961 exhibition sponsored by the UCLA Art Council. At the auction, eight bidders competed for the Brody Picasso, as Christie's lead auctioneer and Honorary Chairman Christopher Burge started the bidding at the $58 million mark. Mr. Burge took bids from within the saleroom and on the phone before the competition settled down to two bidders at the $88 million mark and a one-on-one battle ensued. Finally, at 7:32pm – nine minutes after the bidding open – the final bid was hammered down and a new world record for the most expensive artwork at auction was sealed at $106,482,500.
---Todd Sigety