OLD MASTERS RULE IN LONDON, PART II
Auction records continued to fall at Sotheby's sales of Old Master drawings and paintings in London on July 11 and 12, 2001. As the second half of Old Master week got under way, all eyes were on the so-called Castle Howard Michelangelo, a pen and brown ink study of a Mourning Woman discovered in an album of otherwise undistinguished drawings at Castle Howard in Yorkshire by Sotheby's expert Julien Stock. In the end it sold for £5,943,500 (about $8.4 million), right in the middle of the presale estimate of £5 million-£6 million -- no record, but a good price, to be sure.
Buyer of the Michelangelo was Luca Baroni of the London firm Colnaghi, who said it was purchased for stock. National Galleries of Scotland director Timothy Clifford immediately announced his hopes to raise funds to buy the work and keep it in Scotland, which does not have a Michelangelo drawing in a public collection.
The auction of more than 270 lots had quite a range. In addition to the Michelangelo, the top lot was a swashbuckling ink wash drawing of Hercules by the French Mannerist Jacques Bellange that sold for £542,500, well over its presale estimate of £40,00-£60,000. But the sale also included several pen and ink drawings by Tiepolo -- the ca. 10 x 7 in. Angelica and Medoro, once owned by Horace Walpole, sold for £16,600 (about $23,000), over its presale high estimate of £12,000 -- and a ca. 2 x 4 in. scrap of paper decorated with a charming sketch of a naked putto by Parmigianino that sold for £20,050 (about $28,000), over its high presale estimate of £7,000.
In the end, Sotheby's sold 215 works of 279 offered (including a number of frames), about 77 percent by lot, for a total of £9.1 million (about $12.8 million).
The records fell the next day, in Sotheby's July 12 sale of Old Master paintings. New auction highs were set for Pieter Brueghel the Younger (£3,853,500, or about $5.4 million), Jacob Jordaens (£2,203,500, or about $3.1 million), Roelandt Savery (£1,763,500, or about $2.5 million) and Balthasar van der Ast (£773,500, or about $1 million plus).
A sexy oil on panel (measuring about 16 x 24 in.) of Pan pursuing a half-dressed Syrinx through tall reeds (she was the nymph who, according to Ovid, was transformed into a reed to escape the satyr, and from the reed Pan fashioned his pipes) sold for £2,203,500 (about $3 million), well over its high estimate of £1.2 million. It was billed as a collaboration between Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Younger.
Sotheby's sold 55 of 77 lots (71 percent) in its part I Old Master paintings sale for a total of £21,053,950 (about $29.6 million), and 199 of 346 lots (about 58 percent) in part II for a total of £3,105,665 (about $4.8 million). If our sums are correct, the total for paintings would be £24.2 million, which, with the drawings added in, would come to a grand total of £34.2 million.
That's just over Christie's two-day total of £29 million. Thanks to anti-trust concerns, the two houses don't get each others numbers -- but the total from sales at both houses would seem to be over £63 million. Clearly, there a lot of life left in the London market, in the Old Master field especially.
INVESTIGATION OF SMALL'S COLLECTION REOPENS
Beleaguered new Smithsonian Institution secretary Lawrence M. Small must have rubbed someone the wrong way when he proposed shutting down the National Zoo's special research center. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened its investigation of his extensive collection of Amazonian tribal art to determine whether it contains fur, feathers, teeth or bones from animals covered by international treaties or endangered species laws. According to a report in the the Washington Post, the probe was launched after pictures of items in Small's collection appeared in Smithsonian magazine. Small formed his holdings during his long career as an executive at Citibank, when he was stationed in South America.
GETTY BEHIND THE 10M DONATION TO NATIONAL GALLERY
News that Mark Getty, the 41-year-old son of John Paul Getty II, was the donor of £10 million to London's National Gallery emerged when the its director, Neil McGregor, said "the word Getty is likely to figure" in the dedication, according to the Guardian Unlimited. The funds go towards the remodeling the cafes, cloakrooms and reception areas of the gallery. JP II, known in Britain as Sir Paul Getty, is the largest single donor to the National Gallery.
L.A. HOSTS INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL
Artists and art lovers are flocking to L.A. this month for the Absolut L.A. International Biennial Art Invitational, July 18-Aug. 18, 2001. More than 65 local galleries -- from Ace and Angles to Tasende and Track 16 -- are hosting exhibitions of over 200 artists from other dealers in Europe and elsewhere. The fifth installment of the fair, which began in 1993, is sponsored by Absolut Vodka, Audi and the L.A. Cultural Affairs Department; it's co-organized by dealers William Turner and Robert Berman.
A series of staggered opening receptions are to be held at the Bergamont Station galleries in Santa Monica (July 18), the West Hollywood, Westwood and Beverly Hills galleries (July 19), the galleries of Beverly, Wilshire and Melrose (July 20), and finally the galleries in Venice and on Main Street in Santa Monica and downtown and in Chinatown (July 21).
Museums are getting into the act, too, with "Gentle Interventions: Liga Pang" opening at the Santa Monica Museum and David Hockney and "Contemporary Digital and Video Work from the Nordic Region" at L.A. MOCA.
CORRECTION: In his recent Art Market Guide 2001 column on Claes Oldenburg, Richard Polsky noted that James Rosenquist was one of the important Pop artists whose works had not sold at auction for over $600,000. In fact, his mural-sized painting F-III sold for $2,090,000 at Sotheby's in November 1986.