Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  

the artnet 
auction report
spring sales: 
an examination 
by Stewart Waltzer

Knowing what price an object will fetch 
when it is put up for sale is the second 
most difficult job in the auction business. 
(The first most difficult job is convincing 
the owner to accept that amount.) In 
reviewing the lots that are to be offered 
at the major New York sales at Christie's 
on Apr. 30 and Sotheby's on May 1, one goes 
back through the records to see how other, 
comparable lots have fared in the past. One 
makes allowances for changes in the market, 
and allowances for works that have been 
exposed before. These records can be most 
easily found, of course, on the ArtNet 
auction database. 
Not all lots lend themselves to this sort 
of analysis. Private collections with works 
held for many years act somewhat 
differently. They have the cachet of their 
provenance as well as freshness to the 
salesroom. Both houses have fairly level 
sales, to judge from the catalogues, with a 
fair amount of private material to leaven 
the mix. The auction-house estimates are, 
on the whole, quite bullish; rather than 
flirting with boom-time prices, they are 
embracing them openly.
While most dealers are doing business, few 
would be prepared to join in a chorus of 
Happy Days Are Here Again, for one reason. 
The days are not that happy. The auction 
houses apparently feel differently. While 
the volume is still far from what it used 
to be, it won't be for long if they have 
their way.
The state of the market is a question of 
perception.  If the works are consigned at 
too high a level and do not sell or are 
skewed to the low end of the estimates, the 
market is perceived as poor.  If on the 
other hand, the houses acknowledge the 
market reality, and the estimates reflect 
this, then the work sells in an even spread 
across the estimates and the market is 
perceived as liquid and healthy.
In the last two evening sales at 
Christie's, auctioneer Michael Findlay 
masterminded paradigms of the normal, 
liquid market.  He restored the faith of 
every dealer in the room.  It wasn't 
necessarily the same at Sotheby's, where 
things appeared a bit more frantic.  A slow 
steady market is to be preferred to one 
with all those exhilarating ups and downs.
While one has enormous respect and regard 
for the people staffing the Impressionist 
and modern departments at Christie's and 
Sotheby's, it never hurts to shed a little 
light on what is normally a process that 
takes place behind closed doors. 
If you are unfamiliar with the auction 
consignment process, each work is offered 
subject to a reserve price, below which the 
work will not be sold. The amount is held 
secretly between the auction house and the 
owner.  The house then publishes an 
estimate, or a projection of what it 
believes the work will fetch. Some things 
sell and some do not.
Not every lot offered has been reviewed 
here. The project would be too vast. 
Instead, selected lots were examined in 
terms of their previous history at auction 
and the history of comparable works. Beyond 
the actual data presented relating to their 
value, one has a sense of the market and 
the expectations of the auction house 
beyond any pronouncements they may have 
The works are arranged alphabetically by 
artist. Lots that have appeared at auction 
before are marked RECYCLED. 

|balthus|boudin|caillebotte|degas|delaunay| |lipchitz|manet|matisse|miro|modigliani| |monet|moore|morandi|picasso|renoir| |seurat|sisley|soutine|vangogh|vuillard| |results summary| Is it a legend or is it a fact that no record price for an artist has endured longer than eight years in modern times? It is apparent that after the market debacle of the early `90s, the auction houses are doing their bit to make this dream come true. Prices once conjured only in "erotic" fantasies are being sought by the various houses in multi-page fold-out spreads for "important" pictures. The question is: "Who's dreaming, them or us?" |artist menu| Balthus Sotheby's, Balthus 4.Portrait de la famille Mouron-Cassandre Oil on board 28 3/8 x 28 3/8 Painted in 1935 Estimate: $600,000-$800,000 5.Le sou prefet de Pointoise Oil on canvas 42 1/2 x 49 1/4 Painted in 1936 Estimate: $400,000-$600,000 6.Portrait de femme en robe bleue Oil on panel 31 1/2 x 21 5/8 Painted in 1935 Estimate: $300,000-$400,000 The three paintings by Balthus represent a unique occurrence in the auction records. Paintings by Balthus are rare and occur only sporadically, which may account for the substantial estimates on the works. Thirty nine works have appeared since 1985. Eighteen of those works were bought in. I would imagine that the failure to find a buyer is less often an aesthetic problem as much as due to an overly aggressive reserve. The auction record for Balthus is $2,090,000 and was set at Christie's in 1989, which was unique as his pictures sold subsequently for $783,000, $550,000, $517,000, $500,000, and $482,000 on down. With the exception of Etude pour les trois soeurs, the highest prices were realized in the boom market prior to 1991. Etude... sold at Christie's in November of 1992, and was an epiphany of upper class erotica. The more mainstream pictures sell between $200,000 and $300,000. The 1935 portrait of Lelia Caetani, 45" x 36", sold for $165,000 at Christie's New York in 1991. Sotheby's has demonstrated a very canny sense of the market when it comes to dealing with multiple-lot consignments. The rarity of the material coupled with a more positive market, at least for the auction house, may justify its enthusiasm. |artist menu| Eugene Boudin Christie's, Eugene Boudin 1.Venise, Le quai de la Giudecca oil on canvas 18 1/2" x 25 3/4" Painted in Venice in 1895 Estimate: $300,000-$400,000 Of the 934 four works by Boudin to appear at auction in the past ten years only 14 are from the 1895 series of works made in Venice, and six of them have appeared since 1994.Venise, la douane sold at Christie's New York in 1994 for $195,000; Petit canal a Venise sold there the same year for $145,000;Venise, vue prise du Grand Canal did not find a buyer at Sotheby's London in 1994, where it was estimated at 250,000-350,000 BP;Venise, le Grand Canal sold at Picard in Paris in 1995 for $135,000; Vue de Venise sold at Sotheby's New York in 1995 for $112,500; and Venise, le Campanile sold at Adjer, Tajan in Paris in 1994 for a record $702,000, after a previous unsuccessful outing in 1990. The market up till now has been eloquent. |artist menu| Gustave Caillebotte Sotheby's, Gustave Caillebotte 24.Le pont d'Argenteuil oil on canvas 24" x 21 5/8" Painted in 1893 Estimate: $400,000-$600,000 RECYCLED Originally sold on Nov. 10, 1987, at Christie's New York by order of the board of trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago. The work was estimated at $400,000-$500,000 and sold for $440,000 (including the ten percent premium). The present estimate, with a higher upper register, may reflect the hope that some of the glory of the Renoir's Le pont d'Argenteuil, on the block the night before, may rub off. The very beautiful Caillebotte, Madame Renoir dans le jardin du petit Gennevilliers, sold at Sotheby's New York last Nov. and brought only $320,000 with an estimate of $300,000- $400,000. |artist menu| Edgar Dégas Christie's, Edgar Dégas 34 Loge d'actrices 6 1/2" x 9" Executed circa 1885 Estimate: $800,000-$1,000,000 RECYCLED This pastel must be a pretty good picture because it sold in the dreariest part of the Dark Times for $770,000, well over its estimate of $400,000-$600,000. The sale took place at Sotheby's New York on May 7, 1991. In the 47 lots offered that evening, 17 were passed and over 80 percent of the sale failed to exceed the low estimate. Still, one would be permitted to question the sagacity that brings a piece back to auction a mere five years after the sale, and at a higher estimate to boot. It would almost seem naive and that's not one of the words one uses to describe the management at Christie's. A detailed examination of recent auction records tends very much in their favor, since in 1995 the Degas market exceeded all expectations. On June 26, Christie's London sold La sortie du bain (femme s'essuyant) for close to $500,000, nearly $100,000 above the high estimate. On the 27, Sotheby's London sold the less exalted Torse de femme for $230,000, nearly twice the high estimate. On Nov. 7, Christie's New York sold Apres le bain (femme nue couchee) for $2.4 million, over an estimate of $1.2 million-$1.6 million. This was followed at Christie's on the 8th by La sortie du bain (femme s'essuyant), which is a woman bent over toweling her bum (presumably a different picture) for $503,000--$200,000 above the high estimate. Finally back to London on Nov. 27 at Sotheby's, La Toilette sold for $1,673,000, over an estimate of $1.2 million-$1.5 million. Who knows where this is leading except that $4,800,000 probably won't buy you Loge d'actrices. Sotheby's, Dégas 22.Portrait de Guilia Bellelli Oil on canvas 9 3/4" x 7 1/2" Painted in 1858-59 Estimate: $300,000-$400,000 RECYCLED Is this the sleeper of two houses? Is this the small, understated work of surpassing beauty that will find happiness only with some latter day post-industrial Lancelot who's heart is pure? No matter that purity doesn't naturally attach to wealth. This rare work appeared on June 27, 1994, at Christie's London, where it sold for $630,000. It is now offered for considerably less. Lest your pure heart beat too quickly, it was modestly estimated in its previous outing at $220,000- $275,000, and look what someone went and did. |artist menu| Robert Delaunay Christie's, Robert Delaunay 60.Triomphe de Paris Oil on canvas 25 5/8" x 31 7/8" Painted in 1928-29 Estimate: $250,000-$350,000 RECYCLED To say this picture has been recycled is generous. Arbitraged would be closer to the mark. The piece was bought in Paris six months ago for $107,128 at the operative exchange rate. To be precise, it sold on November 24, 1995, at Picard in Paris and was lot number 30 in the sale. Estimated now at $250,000-$350,000, we believe that it will sell. After all, who checks? |artist menu| Jacques Lipchitz Christie's, Jacques Lipchitz 44.Baigneuse assise Bronze with brown patina 28 1/8" H Executed in 1916 Estimate: $180,000-$220,000 Marlborough Gallery recently had a phenomenal Lipchitz exhibition on view in New York. Alan Wilkinson will release the first volume of the Lipchitz catalogue raisonne (designed, by the way, by ArtNet's own Doug Milford) in a matter of months. There is a flurry of interest in the artist's work.Baigneuse assise appeared last at Sotheby's New York day sale on May 12, 1994, where the work sold for $255,000, over an estimate of $175,000-$225,000. This cast, 6/7, appears as rich as 1/7, which sold two years ago. I would be surprised if it did not equal or exceed the former sale. |artist menu| Edouard Manet Christie's, Edouard Manet 3.Jeune fille en deshabille pastel on canvas 22 1/8 x 13 7/8 Drawn in 1882 Estimate: $400,000-$600,000 Similar works to have appeared on the market are:Jeune femme decolletee, 1882, 22 1/8" x 18 1/4", pastel on canvas, selling at Christie's New York on Nov. 15, 1990, for $352,000. after an unsuccessful outing in 1985; and Jeune fille au chapeau marron, 1882, 21 3/4" x 13 3/4", pastel on canvas, which also sold at Christie's on May 12, 1992, for $385,000.Jeune fille en deshabille, given its quality, including one of the most sensitive renditions of a nipple in western art, should eclipse the previous offerings by a considerable margin. |artist menu| Henri Matisse Christie's, Henri Matisse 49. Lydia (Etude pour portrait au manteau bleu) 1935 Charcoal on paper 26 3/8 x 18 5/8 " Drawn in Nice, November 19, 1935 Estimate: $600,000-$800,000 This drawing is the first of a pair made on Nov. 19 and 20, 1935. The latter drawing sold at Christie's on Nov. 15, 1989, at the top of the market for $990,000. In it, Lydia is in the identical costume, in the identical pose, except that the chair has been incorporated into the drawing. True, there are few examples of charcoal drawings of this magnitude to appear at auction in the past ten years. In view of the contraction of the market, and similar works available in galleries, one would presume that this baby is fully priced. But as one dealer said to me," You want 'em, that's what they cost." Sotheby's, Matisse 43.Femme a la fenetre, Nice oil on canvas 28 1/2 x 23 1/2 in. Estimated: $1,500,000-$2,000,000 RECYCLED Is it hubris that prompted Sotheby's to put this picture up for sale atop an estimate of $3.2 million-$4 million on Apr. 3, 1990, in London? There were no takers. Hubris reconciled at $1.5 million-$2 million? Maybe not. Find out Wednesday night. |artist menu| Joan Miro Christie's, Joan Miro 57.Peinture oil, casein, tar and sand on masonite 30 3/4 x 42 1/2 in. Painted in 1936 Estimate: $500,000-$700,000 RECYCLED The general rule of thumb for certain pictures bought at the height of the market (like Holland Monets, Normandy Gauguins, just-too-late-to-be-Fauve Derains--or Miros that are not constellations, for instance) is that upon resale the market will exact a toll of at least 30 percent from the purchase price. And that's more conservative than William Acquavella. How is it that this modestly "difficult," hardly mainstream painting that was purchased in boom times on June 27, 1989, at Sotheby's London for $563,000 with an estimate of approximately $460,000-$620,000 is put back on the market with even higher aspirations? There is not enough activity in the Miro market to justify it nor is there activity approaching this level. Can it be the owner still believes Ronald Reagan is president? Either that, or he's Japanese. Christie's, Miro 54.Les Amoureux oil on panel 16 x 12 3/4 in. Painted in 1932 Estimate: $500,000-$700,000 RECYCLED Outside of the sale of Ralph Colin's constellation at close to $5 million, there has not been all that much activity in Miro. This picture opened in London at Christie's on June 26, 1995, with an estimate of approximately $800,000-$1.1 million. Failing to sell it has been brought across the pond. The whole series of 1932 oil-on-panel pictures are in fact quite lovely. Two others have appeared at auction. Femme Assise, 18" x 11", sold for $1 million in Nov. 1986;Femmes au repos, 9 1/2" x 13", sold a day later for $440,000 and was offered a second time in May of 1992, when it did not find a buyer. It is hard to imagine that Les amoureux wouldn't be tempting at this more realistic value. |artist menu| Modigliani Sotheby's, Modigliani 49.Elena Picard Oil on canvas 36 1/2" x 24 1/4" Painted 1917 Estimate: $3 million-$4 million RECYCLED 44.Jeanne Hebuterne con cappello e collana Oil on canvas 25 1/2" x 21 1/4" Painted in 1917 Estimate: $3 million-$4 million The Elena Picard portrait was offered as La fille au collier on Dec. 1, 1987, at Sotheby's London, when it failed to find a buyer. It was estimated at approximately $1.8 million-$2.7 million at the current exchange rate. More recently at Christie's,Femme assise devant une cheminee, 1915, 31 /3/4 x 25 3/8, sold for $1.5 million in Nov. 1995, and the Ralph Colin picture Nu assise au collier, 1917, 36 x 23 1/2, sold for $12.5 million. At Sotheby's La Belle Epiciere, 1918, 39 3/8 x 25 1/2", sold for $6.6 million. Other prices that are of interest are: $8,250,000 for Jeanne Hebuterne con grande capello, 1918, 21" x 15", May 15, 1990, Christie's New York $2,916,000 for Jeanne Hebuterne (au foulard), 1919, 36 1/4" x 21", June 23, 1986, Christie's London $5,950,000 for Portrait de Jeanne Hebuterne, 1919, 36 1/4 x 25 1/4", Nov. 8, 1994, Sotheby's New York |artist menu| Henry Moore Christie's, Henry Moore 66.Upright, Internal and External Forms bronze 79 in. tall Executed in 1952 - 1953 Estimate: $800,000-$1,200,000 Appearing Nov. 13, 1990, at Sotheby's New York, a similar cast brings $1.7 million with an estimate of $1 million-$1.5 million. Christie's, Moore 62.Reclining Figure No.7 bronze 22 H x 36 W in. Executed in 1978 - 1980 Estimate: $350,000-$450,000 Casts have appeared at Sotheby's London on June 24, 1986, selling for $330,000; at Sotheby's New York on May 10, 1988, selling for $687,000; and at Sotheby's New York on May 9, 1989, selling for $825,000. It would appear, at least as far as Henry Moore is concerned, that we are looking back with nostalgia. Christie's, Moore 51.Family Group bronze Ca. 17 in. tall Executed in 1946 Estimate: $600,000-$800,000 Last Nov. a similar cast sold for $937,500 at Christie's New York. Various casts were offered four other times. One sold for $1.5 million at Christie's London in 1989. The others, appearing variously in 1989 and 1990, were bought in. No doubt it is what makes the auction business so fascinating. |artist menu| Claude Monet Sotheby's, Claude Monet 23.Les Meules, Giverney, effet du matin Oil on canvas 25 5/8" x 36 1/4" Painted 1889 Estimate: on request (around $6 million) As Sotheby's points out, this picture sold on Nov. 15, 1989. In those years, it rated only a single page in the catalogue and carried a published estimate of $5 million- $7 million. It sold for $6,710,000. The most costly of the six Meules to have appeared at auction since 1985 was Meules, effet de niege, le matin. It sold for $8,525,000 on Oct. 18, 1989, also at Sotheby's New York. It wasn't even in the main autumn sale. No picture has appeared since Dec. 1990, when Meules, impressions roses et bleu went on sale at Christie's London with an estimate of approximately $10 million-$14 million and was bought in. By then, however, the market wasn't cooperating. The present offering of Les Meules, Giverney, effet du matin is a triumph for Sotheby's. How many of the 30 works of the series remain in private hands? More to the point, however, is how many people are willing to pony up Reagan rocket prices in 1996. There is no question that the serial works are killers with killer prices, but this really is 1996. Christie's, Monet 29.Le Palais Contarini Oil on canvas 28 3/4" x 36 1/4" Painted in 1908 Estimate: $4 million-$6 million Lovely picture. Having said that, let me point out that Venetian Monets have appeared twice annually since 1994 to mixed results. Le Palais da Mula, 1908, 25 " x 35 1/2", was auctioned at Christie's New York in May 1994 and sold for $4.2 million; its presale estimate was $4 million-$6 million. The hammer price was $3.8 million, just below the low estimate. It was a lot of money for a Monet in those hard-pressed times. Subsequently,Le Grand Canal et Santa Maria della Salute, 1908, 29" x 36 3/8", was offered May 11, 1994, at Sotheby's New York. It was passed at $5.7 million over an unpublished estimate of $6 million-$8 million. Too much money. Le Palais Darrio, 1908, 31 3/4" x 25 7/8", was auctioned on May 11, 1995, at Christie's New York with an estimate of $3 million-$4 million. It passed at $2.5 million. Too much money. La Rio de la Salute, 1908, 31 7/8" x 25 5/8" was auctioned at Sotheby's London on Nov. 28, 1995, with an estimate of $2.1 million-$2.7 million. It didn't sell. Too much money. If ever there were a series of works that were more suited for private sale, this must be it. The Monet market is a shadow of its former self. The prices must be realistic, but what is realistic for a major Venetian work is only now becoming clear. Le Palais Contarini is a beautiful picture. I hope it does not add to this list. Christie's, Monet 36.Charing Cross Bridge a la Hauteur de Parliament 25 1/2 x 31 3/4 Painted in 1899 Estimate; $2.8 million-$3.5 million Christie's must have been delighted last November 7, when Charing Cross Bridge, 1903, estimated at $2.4 million-$2.8 million and hammered at $3.2 million and sold all up at $3,522,000.Charing Cross Bridge la tamise, which sold at Christie's London in June 1992, was estimated at $3,700,000-$4,700,000 and sold for $4,125,000 at the current exchange rates. Christie's estimate is timely given the previous activity in these pictures. It seems likely that the earlier version will fare as well regardless of the difference in the time of execution. Less propitious was Charing Cross Bridge, brouillard, which did not find a buyer estimated at $5 million-$7 million at Christie's in Nov. 1989. Nor did Charing Cross Bridge, 1899, appearing at Sotheby's London a few weeks later. It was estimated at that time at $4 million-$5 million. Sotheby's, Monet 27.Antibes, vue du plateau Notre-Dame oil on canvas 25 5/8 x 36 3/8 in. Painted 1888 Estimate: $3 million-$4 million RECYCLED The work was sold on Nov. 11, 1987, at Sotheby's New York for $2,530,000, with an estimate of $1 million-$1.5 million. Compare that to La Prairie a Giverny, 1888, 29" x 36 1/2", that was auctioned for $3,850,000 on May 15, 1990, and fell precisely within its $3 million-$4 million estimate. Both are excellent paintings. If La Prairie were auctioned today it would likely do as well even though its earlier appearance was at the very summit of the Reagan market. If the bullish trend projected by both houses is to be credited, then the Antibes picture will eclipse its previous price of $2.5 million, perhaps by as much as $1 million. Christie's, Monet 38.Le Mont Kolsaas, effet de soleil oil on canvas 25 1/2" x 39 1/4" Painted in 1895 Estimate: $600,000-$800,000 RECYCLED The work appeared last, teamed with Monet's Palais da Mula, in Christie's May 1994 sale. Le Mont Kolsaas, effet de soleil, was estimated at $700,000-$900,000 in that sale. This time around it is offered with the Palais Contarini and at a modest reduction. A similar painting,Le Mont Kolsaas, was offered at the Habsberg Feldman sale in May 1990, estimated at $1 million-$1.5 million but bought in.Le Mont Kolsaas originally sold at Sotheby's New York in Nov. 1987 for $682,000. Sotheby's, Monet 5.Bateau de peche au large de Pourville oil on canvas 21 1/2" x 25 7/8" Painted in 1882 Estimate: $300,000-$400,000 Christie's, Monet 19.Falaise des Petites-Dalles oil on canvas 23 5/8" x 29 1/8" Painted in 1881 Estimate: $300,000-$500,000 The price is right. The Sotheby's catalogue notes that Bateau de peche au large de Pourville was purchased at auction in 1983. It would be interesting to know what the owner paid for it. One assumes that the price was right at that time too. In regard to both works, the average price for 1882 Monets in the present market is probably around $500,000. |artist menu| Giorgio Morandi Christie's, Giorgio Morandi 58.Natura Morta oil on canvas 12 1/4 x 14 in. painted in 1959 Estimate: $200,000-$300,000 RECYCLED See Christie's New York, Nov. 2, 1993, where the picture hammered down at $240,000 ($266,500 with the premium) to someone on the phone. The estimate is certainly accurate; recent activity shows that Morandis of this size, date and title do sell between $200,000 and $300,000. |artist menu| Pablo Picasso Christie's Pablo Picasso 50.La Lecture Oil on panel 25 5/8" x 20" Painted Dec. 11, 1932 Estimate: $6 million-$8 million It is May 8, 1989, in the ballroom of the Regency Hotel in New York City. Habsburg Feldman is about to open its second or third sale. It is a time when the market, riding on Ronald Reagan's economic rocketship, seems to know no limits. Anything seems possible, even Habsburg Feldman emerging as a market force. Looking back through the catalogue, of what must have seemed at least a plausible sale in the face of the Christie's/Sotheby's juggernaut, now seems more like a cotillion of debutantes in dated gowns. The last picture in the sale and the piece that graced the cover of the catalogue is Picasso's La Lecture. It sold that day for $6,270,000. It was rumored to be on the market more than once in the intervening years. Christie's has put it up for sale with the expectation, given the $6 million- $8 million estimate, to recapture the purchase price. Isn't it 1996? On May 10, 1994, Christie's hammered down Femme Couchee a la meche blonde, 1932, 51" x 63", for $4.2 million. Last Nov. 8, 1995, Sotheby's sold Femme dans une fauteuil, 1932, 36 1/4" x 28 3/4". It was estimated at $2,500,000-$3,500,000 and sold for $1,700,000 at the hammer. What is La Lecture worth? Three million, four million, four and a half million, maybe, but six to eight million...? Christie's, Picasso 67.Buste d'homme Oil on canvas 35 1/8" x 45 3/4" Painted 1969 Estimate: $650,000-$850,000. At the Stanley Seeger sale on Nov. 4, 1993, Sotheby's realized prices that had dealers in the room shaking their heads with both astonishment and envy.Femme Accroupie, 1969, 50" x 35", oil on canvas, hammered down at $600,000. The equally unlovely Couple,le baisser, 1969, 45" x 35", hammered at $530,000. The similar Buste d'homme, 1969, 45 3/4" x 35", sold this past Nov. 21, 1995, at Breist in Paris for $476,000. The present estimate of $650,000- $850,00 is full in every sense for a portrait that has an uncanny resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman, but for late Picassos that seems to be the reigning aesthetic. Sotheby's, Picasso 40. Bouteille et guitare sur une table Charcoal, India ink, and paper pasted onto paper 24" x 18 1/8" executed in 1912 Estimate: $450,000-$550,000. Sotheby's has a clear idea of the value of this work in so far as they sold it's lesser twin,Bouteille et verre sur un gueridon, on May 9, 1995, for $520,000 at the hammer. Sotheby's, Picasso 42.Nus sur la plage Pastel on paper 19 3/4" x 25 5/8" Executed 1920 Estimate: $500,000-$700,000 See Trois Baigneuse, 1920, 19 5/8" x 25 5/8", pastel on paper, Sotheby's Nov. 8, 1995, Lot 23, estimated at $500,000- $700,000 and selling for $1,100,000. Do we expect the same fate? Maybe. Christie's, Picasso 63.Tete d'homme oil on canvas 24" x 19 5/8" Painted in 1964 Estimate: $300,000-$400,000 When one thinks of the work that Picasso did between 1910 and 1914 it is difficult to believe that its the same man who painted Tete d'homme. This work appeared last in public at Lempertz Kunsthaus in Germany on Nov. 21, 1992, where it bought in with an estimate of approximately $375,000-$400,000. I guess they thought they'd give it another try and see if the New York boys could do better. Alarmingly,Tete de Jeune Garcon, 1964, 13 7/8" x 10 3/4", about half the size but painted on the same day, Dec. 10, 1964, and according to Picasso's numbering, just before he painted this one, his fifth, sold for $442,000 with an estimate of $150,000- $200,000 at Christie's on May 11, 1994. Go figure. Sotheby's, Picasso 58A.Le matador et femme nue Oil on canvas 63 3/4" x 51 1/8" Painted 1970 Estimate: $1.5 million-$2 million From the Sotheby's catalogue, "in the present picture the seated male leans to gaze tenderly at his paramour. The reciprocity is further enhanced by the red, white and blue palette favored by the artist which establishes a mood of patriotic (although non-specific) celebration." How does one find tenderness in the leer of one post-post-Cubist gargoyle ogling another? How does one find reciprocity in an election year color scheme? And how does one find justification for this price? There are 48 lots of Picasso paintings from 1969 to 1971 to have appeared at auction since 1985. In all that time, including the Reagan rocket years, only four lots exceeded $1 million. Three of them sold for $1.1 million-$1.4 million and one lot sold in May 1990 for $3.3 million. The most recent sale at that level was at Christie's New York, on May 12, 1993,Homme et femme, 1969, 63 3/4" x 51 1/8", which sold for $1,102,500. The present estimate for this picture of $1.5 million-$2 million seems more than a bit over done, but then so does everything else about this, including the painting. Sotheby's, Picasso 62.Homme assis les bras croise oil on canvas 36 1/4 x 28 3/4 Painted in 1964 Estimate: $700,000-$900,000 The year is 2013 and it's bread and circus time at Sotheby's once again. This time musical accompaniment has been added to the presentation in an effort to get this well- to-do and dignified audience to reach for the ceiling in a fever of acquisition. The late van Gogh opens to the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The Cezanne appears amid the stirring first bars of Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathrustra.Homme assis, es bras croise sits back stage on the turntable. As it begins to spin we hear Patti Page sing a quaint tune from long ago. "How much is that doggie in the window..." Lest you mistake my meaning, bear in mind that the market stands in clear counterpoint. As noted elsewhere,Tete de jeune garcon sold for twice its high estimate in 1994. On Nov. 27, 1995, Sotheby's, London sold Le peintre et son modele, 1964, 45 5/8" x 28 3/4" for $627,000 well above the high estimate of approximately $600,000. The next day, Sotheby's also sold Le peintre tete, 1964, 16" x 13", for $226,000. comfortably within its estimate. Whether or not Homme assis, es bras croise will reach the heights projected by its estimate is unclear. The recent market did not reach that high, but Sotheby's has been notably accurate of late. |artist menu| Pierre-Auguste Renoir Christie's, Pierre-Auguste Renoir 4.Le Pont d'Argenteuil oil on canvas 21 3/8" x 25 7/8" Painted in 1882 Estimate: $1,400,000-$1,800,000 RECYCLED This picture hammered down at Christie's New York on May 10, 1989, for $3,500,000, or $3,850,000 with the then-current premium of ten percent. It was the highest price ever paid for an early `80s Renoir and in every way a testament to the quality of the picture. It was finally eclipsed last May by Christie's when the 1882 Portrait of Mademoiselle Demarsy (femme accoudee) sold for $5.5 million. The prices that Christie's has set wisely reflects the realities of the present market, but the price it will realize may reflect the stronger market to come. Christie's, Renoir 30.Deux Baigneuse oil on canvas 13 x 16 1/8 Painted in 1896 Estimate: $700,000-$900,000 A perfect, and typical, picture that sold on Dec. 20, 1986, at Sotheby's London for $1,043,000. It had been estimated at approximately $400,000-$450,000. The price too was more or less typical for 1985, and 1986. There has not been any activity in mid-'90s Renoirs in recent years. Is it the lack of the Japanese market that we feel? At $700,000, the low estimate, one could almost guarantee that someone will take it home. Christie's, Renoir 6.Femme Assise pastel on paper 25 5/8" x 19 1/2" Drawn in 1879 Estimate: $400,000 - $600,000 RECYCLED This picture was sold on Nov. 14, 1989, at Christie's New York for $1,650,000, a price which must have had the dealers howling at the moon with joy as they sat atop bales of money. In Nov. 1995 at Christie's New York the comparable 1879 pastel,Femme nue de dos, was hammered down for $550,000, below its $700,000-$900,000 estimate. The more reasonable Femme assise should sell within the projected range. |artist menu| Georges Seurat Sotheby's, Georges Seurat 34.Le Chenal de Gravelines: Petite Port Phillipe oil on panel 6 1/4 x 9 7/8 in. Painted circa 1890 Estimate: $2,000,000 - $3,000,000 Fourteen Seurat paintings have been to auction since 1985. None have reached this level in recent history. |artist menu| Alfred Sisley Christie's, Alfred Sisley 35.Le pont de Moret au soleil Oil on canvas 25 5/8 x 31 7/8" Painted in 1892 Estimate $1,000,000 - $1,500,000 RECYCLED The picture sells originally at Sotheby's New York on May 10, 1988, for $1,375,000. Last year Christie's sold Le Pont de Moret, 1892, 13" x 16", for $464,000. There is no equivalence between the two pictures.Le Pont de Moret au soleil couchant, 1892, 23" x 28", has also appeared at auction numerous times and sold at Christie's on Nov. 14, 1989, for $1,430,000.Le Pont de Moret au soleil couchant and Le Pont de Moret au soleil are similar although the present work is by far more attractive. The high end of the estimate is a resurrection of the Reagan rocket years, but I bet it gets there. |artist menu| Chaim Soutine Christie's, Chaim Soutine 8.La fille en rose oil on canvas 34 1/4" x 24 7/8" Painted in 1925 Estimate $350,000 - $450,000. This painting is from the collection of Joseph Hazen. One suspects that it is offered under a global reserve that allows Christie's to set a very realistic estimate. The estimate reflects an extremely reasonable low value and a modest high value. The key is the sale of the Soutine La petite fille en rose which Christie's auctioned in New York on Nov. 5, 1991, for $638,000. Other activity at auction in Soutine has been L'enfant italien, 1928, 24 1/2" x 19 1/2" selling at Sotheby's New York in May 1994 for $300,000; and Le garcon d'etage, 1928, 21 1/2" x 15", selling at Maitre Binoche, Paris, for $321,000. One would expect it to go higher than estimated given that it has been held privately for a considerable time. |artist menu| Vincent Van Gogh Sotheby's, Vincent Van Gogh 21.<La vue de la chambre de l'artiste, Rue Lepic Oil on board 18 1/8 x 15 1/8" Painted in 1887 Estimate: $1,000,000 - $1,500,000. RECYCLED The picture is more like Van Gogh's drawings in its sensibility, than like his paintings. It sold earlier at Sotheby's in New York on May 14, 1985, for $715,000.Le Pont de Clichy, 1888, is the only work to appear at auction that is remotely similar and because of its reputed condition problems it is not the best choice as a comparison. Le Pont de Clichy had been estimated in it most recent incarnation at $400,000 - $600,000 and earlier at $1 million-$2 million.La vue de la chambre de l'artiste, Rue Lepic has no clear precedent but well may profit from the excitement which is sure to surround the van Gogh offered at Christie's on the night before. Christie's, van Gogh 31.Interieur d'un restaurant oil on canvas 21 1/4 x 25 3/4 in. Painted in 1887-88 Estimate: On request ($10 million-$15 million) Tronc d'un vieil if, painted in Oct.1888, sells at Christie's Nov. 14, 1989, for $6,350,000. Le Pont de Trinquetaille, Oct. 1888 sells in June of 1987 at Christie's London for $6,600,000. Last Nov., Sotheby's New York sells the 1890 Sous bois for $6,000,000. Why does this matter? Interieur d'un restaurant was painted in Aug. 1888, and organizationally is probably closer to Le Pont de Trinquetaille than any other work to have appeared at auction. Sous bois appeared with an estimate of approximately $8 million in recognition of the devastated van Gogh market, sans Japanese and went on into the stratosphere as at least two individuals recognized the quality of the picture. The wholesale reluctance to purchase van Gogh is over. The auction houses clearly favor the bullish prices of the late `80s and if that is the case, then Interieur d'un restaurant, if it is a good as it appears in the catalog, will sell closer to $20 million than not. |artist menu| Edouard Vuillard Sotheby's Edouard Vuillard 16. Le Square Berlioz (La Place Vintimille) tempera on canvas 64" x 90" Painted 1915-1923 Estimate: $3,000,000 - $4,000,000 On Oct. 18, 1989, at Sotheby's New York, lot 44,Square Vintimille, 1917-1918, 39 5/8 x 19 1/8, was sold for $2,200,000. at the very top of the estimate. No Vuillard of the same period has even come close. Till now. The question that initially occured is whether or not this was an aberration of boom town New York or will lightning actually strike twice. Bet on the lightning. The picture has never been at auction and has been held quietly for 30 years. This was an interesting project and I am obliged to ArtNet Worldwide for the generous use of its data base, which proves to my mind that knowledge is indeed valuable. I also wish to thank various dealers both public and private, who helped to clarify the intricacies of various markets. Finally I want to thank certain staff from the auction houses themselves, who were happy to share their knowledge with me. This project was a test to learn what could be gained from a detailed examination of the individual lots offered at the major New York auctions in the spring and fall. The more one knows about a given lot the more wisely one can determine the real value for him or herself. If you enjoyed the report, or found it valuable, we would like very much to hear. If you have a suggestion on how it might be improved we urge you to contact us. Next November, an advance report on the major Impressionist and Modern auctions will be available to special subscribers. If you are interested in obtaining such a report, please contact Stewart Waltzer at ArtNet, 145 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10021 (212) 497-9700, or by e-mail at