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|Art Market Watch
by Caroline Krockow
|Are the recent gyrations in the financial markets going to be felt in the art market as well? Stock analyst James M. Meyer thinks so, noting that "while predicting art prices is a hazardous business … the sharp correction in stock prices could have an impact on art prices as we approach the peak art sales of November (New York) and January (London)."
Meyer goes on to note that "recent new art buyers who made their riches in the dot.com world may be 'out of business,' so to speak." He consequently downgrades the Janney Montgomery Scott rating of Sotheby's stock from "accumulate" to "hold." Still, Sotheby's was recently trading at about $27 -- up at least $5 from a month ago.
Dim picture at photo auctions
Christie's spread its sales over all three days, with a special evening auction on Thursday, Oct. 12. According to Christie's spokesperson Margaret Doyle, the sale definitely suffered from the stock-market plunge the day before. Of the 83 lots offered, 54 sold -- 65 percent -- for a total of $3,017,650. The top lot was a serene, proto-Minimalist image of a shirt collar by Paul Outerbridge Jr., which fetched $314,000, setting a new auction record for his work (the old record, set in 1996, was $178,500).
The photo, Ide Collar, (1922), is said to be Outerbridge's first commercial assignment, and carried a presale estimate of $250,000-$350,000. Christie's also sold one of four unique Outerbridge self-portraits from 1927, in which the photographer is posing wearing a bizarre, "Invisible Man" type get-up of top hat, cardboard nose and face mask. That picture sold for $226,000.
Also drawing a top price was André Kertész's Atelier Mondrian, Paris (1926), a serene composition of space and volume printed on carte-postale, which sold to the Edwynn Houk Gallery for $314,000 (est. $200,000-$300,000). One big surprise was the success of Grit Kallin-Fischer's Freddo (1928-29), a charming image of a boy in angel wings that sold for $41,125, way over its $10,000-$15,000 estimate.
Christie's day sale on Friday offered 489 lots and grossed $2,454,485, selling 54 percent of the lots offered. The top lot was Karl F. Struss' Cables (ca. 1910-12), a gum platinum print that fetched $116,000 (est. $65,000-$85,000).
On Wednesday at Christie's East, the photo sale totaled $928,015. Of the 422 lots offered, 59 percent were sold. The top price was brought by Man Ray's Nude (1927), which sold for an impressive $94,000 (est. $40,000-$60,000). Not bad for a "bargain basement."
At Sotheby's single day sale of photography, held on Oct. 12, 69 percent of the 308 lots -- 214 works -- sold for a total of $3,115,320. Someone coughed up $236,750 (est. $70,000-$100,000) for three portfolios by Bob Seidemann, a photographer whose previous auction record was $1,600 for a grid of Janis Joplin images. This time around, Seidemann hit it big with his 'The Airplane as Art' (1986-2000) collection of 302 photos, including 94 portraits of seminal figures in U.S. aviation.
Sotheby's photo chief Denise Bethel was understandably proud of this top lot, claiming that "this work deserves to be known by a wider audience and the fierce bidding would bring Seidemann the attention he deserves."
Sotheby's second highest lot was also a Man Ray, his Untitled (Rayograph with Cigarettes and Light Bulb), signed by the artist in 1924 (est. $150,000-$200,000), which sold within the estimate for $198,250 to the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.
The sluggish market hit the low end of the sale as well. One eye-catching work that failed to sell was Richard Misrach's Playboy #94, from the series of pictures of skin magazines used for target practice that the photographer found out in the Southeast desert. It was bought in over an estimate of $9,000-$12,000.
CAROLINE KROCKOW is an editorial assistant at Artnet Magazine.