Art collectors are tough at London auctions


Half-way In the London June auction series, collectors seem to be chasing lesser-known artists rather than household names.

It’s a strategy reminiscent of the anti-trophy atmosphere that supported the mid-market for low-cost art last year, with an important twist: Collectors no longer pay off anything below $ 20 million. of dollars, at least in the older category of Impressionists and Moderns. art. Last week’s $ 212 million auction run at Christie’s and Sotheby’s fell short of overall expectations, in part because a Fernand Léger abstract estimated at $ 31 million was not sold. Yet at the same time, records were broken for a large number of artists who historically never even got a spot in the big night sales.

Dealers and auctioneers said the change suggests bidders are feeling adventurous and getting picky. After a glut of shopping opportunities at auctions in New York in May and at Swiss Art Basel this month, jaded collectors are flocking to London in search of novelty, not safe bets. This has created an unstable environment for houses, which finalized their auction listings months ago. “The original gem is what they want,” said Keith Gill, Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale Manager.

Hannah Höch’s 1919 work “Him and His Environment” drew competing offers at Christie’s in London.



On Tuesday, Christie’s failed to find a buyer for its long-awaited star, Leger’s 1913 ‘Woman in an Armchair’, but drew a flurry of offers for ‘Him and His Midst’ from German surrealist Hannah Höch. 1919, which sold for $ 805,000, doubling its highest price. estimate. (The house sold the same item seven years ago for $ 386,500.) Merchants said the Leger’s chances had lessened because its seller had largely sold it to private buyers for two years before trading. put it up for auction. Höch’s work comes under increasing scrutiny as the broader market reassesses neglected female artists, the dealers said.

Sotheby’s also didn’t meet much competition for its most expensive pillar, selling Claude Monet’s 1908 ‘Water Lilies’ for $ 30 million to an agreed guarantor after no one lifted a paddle at the Wednesday sale.

The house drew much more buzz for Alfred Kubin, an Austrian illustrator whose eerie images of sex and death in the late 1800s foreshadowed the surrealists but who is not widely collected outside of Austria and the United States. ‘Germany. Still, Sotheby’s on Wednesday attracted at least four stubborn bidders for its 1900-01 drawing of a giant skeleton sowing an “epidemic” on a $ 1.2 million house, nearly five times its high estimate. Kubin’s designs were also four of the top 10 prices at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art sale on Thursday. It probably helped that these Kubins were recently returned by the Lenbachhaus Munich, a museum in Germany, to the heirs of Max Morgenstern, an Austrian collector and friend of the artist.

Fritz Glarner, a little-known Swiss painter whose geometric grids often evoke those of his mentor Piet Mondrian, also marked when his 1952 abstract, “Relational Painting, No. 60”, sold at Sotheby’s for $ 953,800. above its high estimate of $ 816,800.

Fritz Glarner’s 1952 abstract, “Relational Painting, No. 60,” sold for more than its high estimate at Sotheby’s.



Changing tastes have left a wake of unsold works at both houses, with just 66% of daily deals at Sotheby’s – and just 60% at Christie’s – finding buyers. David Norman, an expert who recently joined Phillips, said most of the unsold works, including designs by Henri Matisse and Paris School artists like Maurice Utrillo, have fallen into disuse with young buyers. today. “Who in their 40s is going to create a collection that looks like it should hang in an old lady’s apartment on Park Avenue?” Mr. Norman said.

Expect more volatility at next week’s contemporary art auctions, which are expected to bring in at least $ 195 million in total. On Tuesday, Christie’s will anchor its sale with Jean Dubuffet’s 1961 circus scene, “Ceremony,” which is estimated to be at least $ 8.8 million. Specialist Cristian Albu said his team mixed up more recent names like René Daniëls and Tschabalala Self.

Jean Dubuffet’s 1961 circus scene “Ceremony” is expected to gross at least $ 8.8 million on Tuesday at Christie’s.



Sotheby’s offers Albert Oehlen’s “Self-Portrait with Empty Hands” from 1998 and is asking for at least $ 5 million, a record estimate for the German conceptual painter. Mr. Oehlen is enjoying a major surge from galleries like Gagosian and his self-portraits have skyrocketed in auctions in recent times. Phillips will round out the London Summer Series Thursday by featuring works by rising stars like Harold Ancart, whose “Triptych: Untitled (Ultra Deep Fried # 7 # 8 # 6)” in 2014 is estimated to be at least $ 380,000, and Dana Schutz, whose 2009 “Moonwalker” is estimated to be at least $ 630,000.

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