This week will see the Sotheby’s November sales moved forward to 28th October to allow for the impending US election. The quality is very good and, as such, the prices expected are ambitious… but not unreasonable. There are a few real gems which I shall be keen to follow as they will prove good barometers for the wider market as a whole:

This ‘Fleurs dans un verre’ of 1890 (here) – painted towards the very end of Van Gogh’s life is as elegant and signature a piece as one could want. Though, typically, unsigned the work is offered at a lofty 14m USD but stands every chance with such an attractive palette and brushwork method.

Pablo Picasso works on paper have seen a bit of a struggle of late having seen the market flushed with Marina Picasso’s collection over the last few years. This large, 1958 visage (here) is stunning, and I hope it makes its low estimate which is a relatively strong 1.8m USD.

The vast, barn-storming Rene Magritte of the sale is ‘L’Ovation’ of 1962 (here). The late 1962 date is of no concern as collectors always rush to buy these wonderful motifs over art historical import. In this case the curtain and the clouds are the signature Magritte protagonists. Art-Historically these 1960s works are revisions of his greater, less commercial 1920s and 1930s works; but as a cultural signpost and as an immediate hit of easy-going Surrealism they are perfect, highly commercial, blockbusters. The low estimate is 12m USD. 

I far prefer the earlier Magritte – ‘Reverie de Monsieur James’ (here) of 1943 which is offered at 5-7m USD. It is a wonderful testament to the great patron of the Surrealists: Edward James of West Dean in Sussex.

Over in the Contemporary sale the overall theme is one of general quality through padding out of the sale with cars and design. Yes, three Alfa Romeos will be up for grabs for a 14m USD low estimate, as well as a Mollino dining table for 2m USD. This crossover of sale input is strange to us in the trade but may seem completely normal in the future; as clients prefer fewer barriers to collecting across many formats.

The gems are plentiful on the art side too with this 1957 Clyfford Still (here) offered at 12-18m USD. Its provenance is gorgeous: it is being sold by one of the world’s great galleries to fund future acquisitions: the Baltimore Museum of Art (Home to the Cone Sisters’ Collection). As a gift from the artist in 1969 – provenance doesn’t get much better. I think the estimate is terribly low and I envisage a price towards the 20m USD spectrum if the AbEx market as a whole can hold.

Matthew Wong (1984-2019), the brilliant painter that died too young last year, is seeing a vast uptick in pricing and this work: ‘Dialogue’ (here) is one such example of his class. To have such a unique visual language in painting and such a novel signature style in the 21st Century is to be lauded. I think ‘Dialogue’ may make 500,000 USD: well over the top estimate.

Whilst the cover-lot of the sale is a large Rothko this Lee Krasner (here) is arguably more interesting from a market point of view. Krasner was arguably the most important woman artist of the mid 20th Century and these early 1960s works, though not the ‘Umber’ series, will be fascinating to watch from a market perspective. I think ‘Camouflage’ is well worth the top estimate in this case. Funnily enough (or should that be ‘ironically enough’ given his market fall) I can’t help thinking of Rudolph Stingel’s artistic debt to Krasner in these monochrome pictures.

It will be a very interesting evening at Sotheby’s New York this Wednesday (28th) and if you need any assistance with any of the auctions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.