Sales of $ 92.5 million at Christie's Monday night auction is one indicator of a healthy art market. However the NY Times reported that Christie's Tuesday night sales produced "lackluster bidding as a result of high prices and middling quality" - 11 of the 46 works failed to sell. Watching the event live looked like Christie's threw some big numbers down field which resulted in incomplete passes. This disappointing game happened despite the record breaking sale of Giacometti's "Diego en chemise ecossaise" for $32.6 million including fees.
Across town is where the action moved to Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art auction, with as predicted halftime adjustments being made to their game plan. NY gallery owner and private dealer, Ezra Chowaiki mentioned to me that there would "likely be significant downward movement in their pricing guarantees." A smart yet defensive move after what I observed as a less-than-enthusiastic reaction from the murmuring crowd at Christie's.
My question is "who is ultimately responsible for the success of an auction house?" While Sotheby's Chairman William Ruprecht is widely admired and respected by the art world he has come under withering attacks over the past year from dissident Sotheby's shareholder and hedge fund manager Dan Loeb.
Loeb swooped down like a vulture attacking Ruprecht in a letter last month focusing on the firm's “deteriorating competitive position relative to Christie's." Additionally, he cited the firm’s lack of attention to the growth of the contemporary art market and the Chairman's excessive pay package.
The most telling rebuff of Loeb's attack is the stellar results of the Sotheby's auction last night. Sales totaled $290.2 million, not too far from the high end estimate of $308 million. It was reported that the collectors and dealer talking after the auction were much more positive than just 24 hours before.
You can judge for yourself how this feud is unfolding, with a somewhat obvious goal of Loeb - to enhance his own position as a contemporary art collector.
These auctions are meant exclusively for those collectors of significant economic means. When I called to reserve my tickets with Christie’s and get a paddle for the evening sale earlier this week – they wanted to update my financial profile in order to allow me to bid at the auction.
The Service Representative kindly reminded me of the auction registration parameters, including the need to have a minimum of $500,000 in one's bank account in order to bid. Auction season is in full swing for the serious buyers... not meant to be a spectator event, nor for the faint at heart or wallet size! Real
Art Muse looks forward to your comments.