It was a story of two auctions at Sotheby’s New York on Monday evening (14 November), with a powerful consequence for a single-owner sale of works from the gathering of the late Whitney Museum president David Solinger (1906-1996) adopted by a humdrum night sale of Fashionable artwork. The mixed whole introduced in a complete hammer sum of $336.3m ($391.2m with charges), although the 23-lot Solinger sale carried out much better towards expectations in contrast with the 44-lot Fashionable night public sale.
A connoisseur’s assortment
The Solinger assortment public sale was a sold-out, white glove affair, bringing in a hammer whole of $116.3m ($137.9m with charges), close to the higher finish of Sotheby’s pre-sale estimate vary of $86.7m-$118m (estimates don’t embrace public sale home charges). Remarkably for a significant single-owner sale on this period, not one of the tons within the Solinger trove have been backed by ensures or got here with irrevocable bids, a pointy distinction to latest high-wattage auctions reminiscent of these of the collections of Harry and Linda Macklowe that Sotheby’s performed in November 2021 and final Could and the $1.6bn Paul Allen gross sales Christie’s held final week, during which each lot was assured and plenty of held irrevocable bids.
“Maybe Sotheby’s felt that, so as to be equal to what was occurring at Christie’s with the Paul Allen assortment, they wanted to place their finest foot ahead by way of presenting a collector who was comparable,” the New York-based adviser Beverly Schreiber Jacoby says. “Despite the fact that the greenback quantities will not be the identical as with the Allen assortment, Solinger is a collector who was additionally a really dedicated and important artwork world participant.”
Solinger’s involvement within the artwork world—because the president of the Whitney who was instrumental within the building of its former Marcel Breuer constructing on Madison Avenue, as a lawyer representing many well-known artists and as a skilled painter—might have contributed to his assortment’s public sale efficiency. All however a handful of tons noticed aggressive bidding, and practically half (11 of 23) offered for hammer costs above their excessive estimates.
The sale opened dynamically, with sculptures by Jean Arp and Alexander Calder and a portray by the Pittsburgh-born modernist William Baziotes all exceeding their estimates. The Calder specifically, Sixteen Black with a Loop, a basic cellular from 1959 that hung over the saleroom, rapidly surpassed its excessive estimate of $4m to promote for a hammer value of $7.1m ($8.4m with charges). Like a number of of the evening’s prized tons, it went to a collector in Asia.
Alberto Giacometti’s handpainted bronze sculpture Trois hommes qui marchent (grand plateau) (1952) was among the many sale’s highest-priced works and ultimately marched proper previous its $20m excessive estimate. It will definitely hammered at $26m ($30.1m with charges), with a bidder in Sotheby’s York Avenue saleroom prevailing over three telephone bidders.
Two tons later, the work with the Solinger sale’s highest estimate, Willem de Kooning’s good, intricate Collage (1950, est $18m-$25m), set off a bidding warfare amongst collectors on the telephones with 4 totally different specialists. In the long run, the consumer on the road with Sotheby’s senior vice chairman in New York Bame Fierro March landed the lot with a $29m bid ($33.6m with charges). That consequence set a brand new document for a De Kooning work on paper, although his work have fetched a lot larger sums at public sale (his Untitled XXV from 1977 offered for $66.3m, with charges, at Christie’s in 2016) and in personal gross sales (mega-collector Ken Griffin reportedly paid leisure mogul David Geffen $300m for the 1955 portray Interchange).
The remainder of the Solinger sale noticed strong outcomes, although a set of works by Paul Klee principally didn’t spark a lot curiosity, and one of many assortment’s star tons, Pablo Picasso’s Femme dans un fauteuil (1927, est $15m-$20m), offered after only one bid for a hammer value of $8.4m ($9.9m with charges). Grimly, the sale’s third-to-last lot appeared to profit from the so-called “demise impact”: Peinture 92 x 65 cm. 7 février 1954 (1954, est $800,000-$1.2m), a prismatic black-on-gold composition by Pierre Soulages, the French abstractionist who died final month at age 102, set off a contest between 9 bidders and ultimately offered for $2m ($2.4m with charges) to a collector on the road with Sotheby’s Los Angeles-based personal gross sales specialist Jacqueline Watcher. (The identical bidder additionally snapped up a small, crimson Klee work on paper earlier within the sale.)
No second wind
After a quick intermission following the Solinger sale, Sotheby’s Europe chairman Oliver Barker returned to the podium for the Fashionable night public sale, though lots of the energetic bidders from earlier within the night appeared to have opted for dinner as a substitute. The second public sale got here with important monetary guardrails: 25 of the 44 tons have been assured and 21 had irrevocable bids. A number of the tons additionally benefited from provenance comparably stellar to the Solinger sale: 4 of the tons, together with a significant Picasso, have been coming from the gathering of the late Museum of Fashionable Artwork (MoMA) president William S. Paley (1901-1990) and being offered to profit that museum and different charitable organisations.
Regardless of all of the encouraging alerts, the sale was a disappointment, with eight tons failing to promote (together with an André Derain panorama from Paley’s assortment) and two extra withdrawn earlier than the public sale. In the long run, the sell-through fee was 82% by lot, bringing in a complete hammer value of $220m ($253.3m with charges), effectively under the pre-sale estimate of $232m-$287.5m.
Even so, the public sale notched some notable outcomes, particularly for ladies artists. It opened with an ecstatic Elaine de Kooning portray, Cost (1960), which rapidly surpassed its $600,000 excessive estimate to promote for a hammer value of $850,000 ($1.1m with charges), a brand new document for the Summary Expressionist’s work. A blinding 1928 portrait by Artwork Deco grasp Tamara de Lempicka depicting the Greek-born duchess and humanities patron Romana de la Salle offered for a $12m hammer value, firmly inside its $10m to $15m estimate. With charges, the worth got here to $14.1m, good for De Lempicka’s second-highest public sale consequence thus far.
The sale’s star lot, a basic canvas from Piet Mondrian’s De Stijl interval, Composition No. II (1930), arrived with an on-request estimate of at the very least $50m. It had final appeared at public sale in 1983 at Christie’s in London, the place it was acquired by a Japanese financial institution (it was subsequently offered, through Acquavella Galleries, to the current vendor).
“The market could be very totally different right this moment than it was in 1983,” Jacoby stated earlier than the public sale. “If it’s arising on the market at this second, it means that there’s somebody who has been recognized already as a possible purchaser.” In the long run, there gave the impression to be precisely one somebody inquisitive about shopping for the Mondrian. It offered for a hammer value of $48m ($51m with charges) to a collector in Asia who positioned a solitary bid through Sotheby’s chairman for Switzerland Caroline Lang. Even so, the consequence was adequate to set a brand new public sale document for the Dutch Modernist’s work.
The most important lot of the evening from Paley’s assortment, the Picasso nonetheless life Guitare sur une desk (1919), had beforehand been on long-term mortgage to MoMA. It rapidly surpassed its on-request estimate of at the very least $25m because of a two-way bidding warfare between collectors on the telephones with Sotheby’s head of personal gross sales for the Americas Courtney Kremers and the public sale home’s senior vice chairman in New York Brad Bentoff. The latter’s consumer ultimately prevailed with a successful bid of $32m, which got here to $37.1m with charges.
That was the public sale’s eighth lot, and thereafter the going obtained rocky, with works by canonical artists together with Schiele, Degas, Rodin and Pissarro failing to promote. A number of extra tons hammered effectively under their low estimates after only one bid, together with two of the sale’s greatest trophies. Giacometti’s 1962 portrait of his muse, Caroline (est $15m-$20m), elicited only one bid, hammering at $14m ($15.9m with charges). Three tons later, the truly and symbolically big Henry Moore sculpture Reclining Determine: Competition (1951)—which was commissioned by the newly fashioned Arts Council of Nice Britain as a sculptural centrepiece for the Competition of Britain in 1951—didn’t spark any festivities. It offered after only one bid for a hammer value of $27.5m ($31m with charges), effectively in need of its $30m to $40m estimate.
Apparently sensing the slackening temper within the more and more sparse saleroom, Barker moved swiftly via the latter half of the sale. He fielded simply 5 bids throughout the public sale’s eight remaining tons, half of which didn’t promote.
The night’s dichotomous outcomes appeared to strengthen a number of the classes taken from the final a number of public sale cycles, whereas difficult others. The success of the Solinger assortment appeared to verify the facility of packaging gross sales round a single, visionary collector or gathering couple. However the efficiency of Solinger’s non-guaranteed assortment, in distinction to the combined outcomes for the numerous guarantee-backed tons within the Fashionable night public sale, might also replicate the procedural high quality of auctions with a majority of assured tons, which might really feel like personal gross sales carried out in public.
Following Sotheby’s combined outcomes on Monday, consideration shifts to Phillips for Tuesday’s (15 November) night sale of twentieth century and modern artwork, adopted by Sotheby’s modern and ultra-contemporary night gross sales on 16 November and Christie’s back-to-back gross sales of twentieth and twenty first century artwork on 17 November.