On Monday evening, two consecutive sales of modern art at Sotheby’s brought in $391.2 million.
Even though sales topped the house’s estimate of $318 million, the bottom line kicked off last week, when Christie’s kicked off the fall auction season in New York with a bang. That house had offered the collection of late tech mogul Paul G. Allen, which fetched $1.5 billion with fees, the highest sum ever for a public sale to a single owner.
Yet Sotheby’s auctions broke a new record for Piet Mondrianwith a painting by him sold for $51 million.
Two historical figures of the New York art scene held some of the works offered for sale at Sotheby’s on Monday evening.
Paintings and sculptures from the collection of New York lawyer David Solinger, former president of the Whitney Museum before his death in 1996, have attracted the attention of collectors. Kicking off the two-pronged event, Solinger’s sale brought in $137.9 million.
The second sale included several belonging to New York media mogul William Paley, who died in 1990. Funds raised from these works will go to an endowment fund focused on digital initiatives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Paley has served as a longtime trustee and benefactor.
The 23-lot Solinger auction was a high-end sale, meaning all of the works in it sold. Many of these works fetched prices above their high estimates.
At the next auction of 44 lots, only 36 works sold, some failing to live up to their low expectations. Twenty-one of these works came with third-party guarantees, minimum bids that auction houses secure under agreements with outside backers to offset financial risk.
“Not all sales can be Allens,” said artistic adviser Wentworth Beaumont, who attended the sale in person. ART news.
Sotheby’s auctioneer Olivier Barker led the two-pronged event, which saw only moments of fierce competition. The usual crowd of advisors and dealers were on hand for the three-hour event.
Specialists have speculated that the subdued energy of the participating clientele could suggest that the focus of the night – a sector largely devoid of trophies in the modern art category – is suffering from a prolonged lull in demand. after covid. “It was a sign that we were coming back to reality,” said Julian Dawes, contemporary art specialist at Sotheby’s, during a press conference after the sale. “In 2016 or 2017, it would have been a great sale.”
De Kooning, Giacometti Lead White-Glove Solinger Collection
Sculpture in amorphous limestone by Jean Arp nasty fruit (1936) started the sale with a small jolt of energy that quickly faded as more lots came up for auction. He attracted several bidders and eventually hammered in a bid of $2 million, four times his low estimate of $500,000. By phoning a client with Sotheby’s Americas President Lisa Dennison, the final price was $2.4 million. Other works by Jean Dubuffet, Pierre Soulages, and Fernand Léger were among the lowest-priced items that exceeded estimates of between $1.5 and $2 million.
But Solinger was known to have purchased works by post-war New York artists whom he had cultivated as friends before their respective rise to global art fame, and it was these pieces that brought the spotlight to light. this first auction. One was by Willem de Kooning, whose 1950 abstraction Bonding was the best lot of this sale. Sotheby’s New York contemporary specialist Bame Fierro placed the winning bid of $29 million for the painting. After fees, that number grew to $33.6 million.
The second most expensive work was a hand-painted and cast Giacometti sculpture in 1948. Titled Three Walking Men (large platter), it features a group of three of the artist’s signature walking man figures, and won at a bid of $25 million, against an estimate of $15 million. Commissioned by Solinger after meeting the artist at the latter’s Paris studio, the work went to a bidder in the room who prevailed over another competing buyer on the phone with Sotheby’s Asia President Jen Sua after a seven-minute battle. With fees, it was purchased for $30.2 million.
A mobile sculpture by Alexander Calder and a painting by Joan Miro were also auctioned off by buyers based in Asia. Calder’s all-black mobile Sixteen black with a buckle (1959) fetched a final price of $8.4 million with fees, more than double its low estimate of $3 million.
Paley Works provides $47 million for MoMA endowment
Although new artist records were not the main focus on Monday evening, that of Dutch modernist Piet Mondrian, who was the subject of a recently published biography and a retrospective at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland, seemed late. Leading the second half of the night, Mondrian’s Composition No. II, a multicolored 1930s grid deriving from the artist’s signature abstract geometric paintings, hammered out of a $48 million bid, going to an Asian bidder. It sold for a record $51 million including buyer’s fees.
The result barely topped the artist’s previous auction record of $50.6 million, set in 2015 when his 1929 Composition No. III, with red, blue, yellow and black sold at Christie’s New York. Composition No. II last appeared at auction in 1983, when a Japanese collector bought it for $2.2 million.
Five works that had been on long-term loan to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, donated under a posthumous agreement with Paley’s charitable foundation, sold in the second half of the night.
The most valuable of the five from the Paley loan was Pablo picassoCubist still life from 1919 Guitar on a table, which hammered in $32 million, speaking to a bidder over the phone with Sotheby’s New York business development representative Brad Bentoff. He went for a final price of $37 million with fees, beating his expectation of $25 million, which had been designated as an estimate at the auction house’s specialists’ request prior to the sale.
Another big earner was a 1951 black sculpture of a reclining figure by Henry Moore which sold for $26 million including fees. This price may be high compared to other lots in this sale, but it wasn’t an impressive result – the coin fell short of its $30 million estimate.
Elsewhere in the sale, works by Henri Rousseau, Joan Miro, Pierre Bonnard and August Rodin sold for between $1.4 million and $4.6 million.
The grouping brought in a collective $47 million, about $10 million more than the house estimated it would bring in.
There was one advantage to the modest auctions: the sales ended relatively quickly. “Report on this, Sotheby’s brings everyone home at a reasonable time,” Barker said.