This week and next will see 2.8 billion USD in works of art come up for auction. Much of that figure is actually already pre-sold in third party guarantees but for the most part it promises to be two weeks of very heavy spending.
Sotheby’s have a single-owner sale exhibiting the works of art previously in the collection of the late Alfred Taubman. The collection is a mixed affair – mostly very good. One gets the sense that he was being told what to buy by auction house experts keen to sell their auctions rather than as a client with any fixed collecting pattern. Highlights include two stunning Degas works – Femme Nue (lot 21) and Danseuses en blanc (lot 32) that was acquired from Richard Feigen in the mid-1980s. Both are world class but very aggressively priced, which will certainly affect bidder interest.
Other notable works are the Henry Moore, Mother and Child with Apple (lot 13) that is worth at least the top estimate – a very rare cast and a lovely theme. A superb Stella from 1961, Delaware crossing, will also be offered in the same curated way in which Christie’s crossed Impressionist, Modern and contemporary boundaries with the Looking forward to the past sale this May. Perhaps my favourite work of the whole sale is a very strong 1958 Kline, Elizabeth (lot 19), which is simply vast, highly-charged and dramatic.
The Impressionist and Modern Evening sale, a separate entity taking place on 5th November sees two works of real class being offered – a Picasso from the Blue Period entitled Gommeuses and a Van Gogh, Paysage sous un ciel mouvemente – from his bright, later works and fresh out of the Franck collection in Belgium. There is a Malevich (lot 8), Mystic Suprematism (black cross on red oval) too – which is staggeringly expensive at 35m USD low estimate and yet another Nympheas by Monet at 30m USD. Yet the Picasso is the finest work in the sale – executed in the maelstrom of his Paris visit and after Vollard’s show of the same year she is the embodiment of all he found fascinating about the period: beauty, modernity and debauchery in equal measure.
Over at the Rockefeller Christie’s also have a large, highly prized selection of lots in the Impressionist, Modern & Contemporary fields. In their Artist’s Muse curated sale the highlights stem from their Modigliani entitled Nu couche (lot 8a), which is a genuine masterpiece. The sale has been built around that subject and all sorts of artists are included, from Yoshitomo Nara to Fernand Leger. Whilst the sale is arguably a bit of a hotch-potch it will be interesting to see if it stands as good a chance of succeeding as Sotheby’s Taubman epic.
The Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Sale on 12th November is perhaps not of the same quality as the Sotheby’s sale. Too little quality spread too thinly for two major Evening sales . Making a curated sale is fine if you have an even spread of excellent quality works however, in this case there is not work of ‘A+’ class that I can see making good figures in the multi-owner sale.
In this sales series the real value is in the works on paper and Day sales. Christie’s are offering an excellent quality Metzinger (lot 1204), which is shown on the cover as well as a very pretty Monet work on paper (lot 1064). Overall, as regards investment, Monet and Van Gogh (lot 1060) works on paper are remarkable value set against their oils.
Over at Sotheby’s the day sales are just as good and their Luce (lot 179) is a truly special work of art, from 1894 and just a few years after Seurat’s masterpieces of Pointillism. Leger and Chagall feature prominently, with some strange estimate variations, but the star sculpture of the week is the Chadwick High Wind, lot 115 which I think with fetch over 1m USD.
Collect slowly, use an advisor and have no regrets – if you love a work of art then go for it.