Given the paucity of choice on the market this June I thought the Sotheby’s Evening sale was a real triumph. Sadly Christie’s, with an Evening Sale totalling 25m GBP, will want to forget late June 2016 for a while (depending on the result of next week’s curated sale: Defining Britain). Sotheby’s leaned heavily on their two major works – Modigliani’s Hanka Zborowska portrait and Picasso’s depiction of Fernande Olivier – a cubist masterpiece which combined made up 80% of the 101m GBP result.
Although the sales this season were always going to struggle against the headwinds of the EU Referendum, and numerous issues with the Economic climate in Europe and Asia, I feel the biggest issue was the timing of the sales seasons. There was only five weeks between May in NYC and June in London leaving very little space for consignors to decide to sell. For an expert at either house to obtain a decent consignment in the space of two weeks (before the catalogues went to press in early June) was really very tough.
That aside Christie’s should not have been including works in their curated sale Defining Britain that would have propped up their major department auction. The Henry Moore reclining figure to be sold next week, would have made 20m GBP last night – and nearly doubled their total. I think the age of the Curated sale is over – auction houses simply cannot risk jeopardising major consignments for the good of individual sales. No major Impressionist collector would have bid in the sale last night. The major phone bidding was by new collectors for weak offerings, or on the phone from the far east for the top lot by Modigliani.
At Sotheby’s Helena Newman took her first Evening sale auction, the first woman since Melanie Clore took the rostrum in 1990. Helena was brilliant and at one point pointed out that she wasn’t used to taking bids for high numbers – I think she will get used to it.
So, overall a fairly tricky season for all but a dozen good pictures and sculptures. There will always be good prices for good items and come November I guarantee that the sales will be top, top class since there will be time to chase consignments and time to sell them!
Over the Summer there will be some great shows to see but my personal favourites will be: Painter’s Paintings: from Freud to Van Dyck at the National, David Hockney at the RA and Mona Hatoum at Tate Modern.
The Masterpiece Art Fair in Chelsea, London, is next week (29th June through 6th July). I look forward to seeing you there.