• gerard van weyenbergh

Cautious buyers at fall auction sales

Paris, Sotheby's and Christie's catalogs were well supplied, but they did not appeal to collectors.

While the Fiac has been canceled, Sotheby's and Christie's Paris have maintained their vacations devoted to modern art. The supply was even abundant, demonstrating the confidence of the sellers. But what about the buyers? "When they came out of confinement, collectors bought like crazy because there was a catch-up effect. They rushed to the auction houses, which had some good consignment artworks for October sales thanks to their good results in July. But in the meantime, the appetite of buyers has fallen a bit", noted the dealer Christian Ogier (Sepia gallery). The four scheduled sales reached 70.3 million euros, within the range of the initial estimate (against 81.2 M € in 2019, including a painting by Nicolas de Staël sold for 20 M €). This is good news in the Covid 19 context, which also shows that the market is responding even without the Fiac. But on closer inspection, there was no dramatic rise. Buyers have played the card of caution. "This is the limit of the Internet format: if buyers have not seen the painting physically, with all these restricted movements, they are not sure what they are buying, and therefore hold back a little more in their auction," observed the merchant.

Sales close to low estimates

The "Modernités" sale, a concept launched four years ago by Sotheby's, enjoyed the highest estimate since its creation (€ 21.4 to € 30.4 million). The session finally reached 23.8 million with fees (compared to € 22.6 million in 2019), or around 20 million euros without fees, slightly below its low estimate. Of the 47 lots offered, 36 found buyers, including the flagship lots, but without any real spark. Head of a man by Pablo Picasso (1940), from the former collection of the art dealer Jan Krugier, estimated 4 to 6 million euros did not exceed 4 million, while a transparency by Francis Picabia representing King Minos reached 3.9 million euros.

Christie's organized three sales in a row.

The first, which dispersed the collection of monumental sculptures of art dealer Paul Haim, saw 100% of the lots sold (41), for a total of 20.6 million euros, above its high estimate. The Caress of a Bird, by Joan Miró, a monumental painted bronze, sold for 4.7 million euros.

The second sale, "Paris Avant-Garde", raised 18.9 million euros including fees. Without fees, it is slightly below its low estimate and far below last year when Parc des Princes of the series "The great footballers", by Nicolas de Staël, had sold 20 million euros. All the artworks with the highest estimates found a buyer, but most in the lower end of their estimate. Painting 162 x 130, July 9, 1961 , by Pierre Soulage reached 5.3 million euros without exceeding its low estimate (6 M €).

Finally, Marc Chagall's "Modern Art" sale, led by Violinist in the Orange Moonlight in Vitebsk , sold for 584,000 euros, totaled 7 million euros, below its low estimate.

© Le Journal des arts