The Impressionist and Modern Art Sale at Sothebys in New York has just begun. And the Henti Matisse that started the sale went for $902,000, well positioned within the range of pre-sale estimates. So far so good.
The next three lots (Kandinsky, Vlaminck and Beckman with a minimum aggregate estimate of $6.5m) seemed not to have sold. A small Picasso with a pre-sale estimate of $6m – $8m hammered out just below $5m. But then….
A work called “Supremacist composition” by Kasimir Malevich has sold for $60 million! It had a pre-sale estimate that was not made public, so I guess they knew something like this was likely to happen. Extraordinary for a work of this type (see image at right).
A $7m – $10m Van Gogh just went by without selling, as did a $1.5m estimate Sisley. Some Monets are up next.
Two Monets, a Pissarro and the first of the Degas fetched at or just below their minimum estimates. But Degas’ Danseuse au repos fetched $37m against a private estimate. Two more Degas have just come in a touch below expectations, and two others, with minimum estimates of $10.5m to $14m went unsold.
These failures were followed by another Monet and another Pissarro, both of which hammered down at about 10% below minimum estimates. This seems to be about the level this sale is reaching. I wonder if the Malevich was a surpise or expected or whether it, too, failed to meet its private expectations (hard to imagine at $60m for a non-household name).
A colourful still life by Matisse ($8m to $10m) went unsold, but Toulouse-Lautrec’s Bal masque made $4.5m, half a million above its minimum estimate.
The big Modigliani is up next with an estimate of between $18m and $25m. But — it passes unsold, along with a $6m Picasso, a $12m-$18m Matisse, and a $7m Giacometti.
The Picasso’s also continue to under-perform, with Bouteille de bass et verre missing the $1.2m minimum by almost $300,000, while a Matisse portrait of a woman sitting has crept $200,000 over its $4m minimum.
Now there are three works by Boris Grigoriev that, together have done rather against estimates. The first made $3.7m (estimated $2.5-3.5m), the second $3.2m ($4 -6m), and the third $1.1m ($600,000-800,000).