New York’s November ‘giga-week’ auctions got off to a modest start at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale last night, Nov. 11, as overambitious estimates took precedence over several highly publicized lots. Totaling $239.4 million ($279.2 million with fees), that was a far cry from last year’s sale, which doubled that amount to $479.3 million (with fees). That said, the numbers seen last night were much more in line with 2016, suggesting some correction in the market.
Of 61 lots offered, 52 were sold, giving an average sale rate of 85%. Many of the nine unsold lots were significant, such as Pablo Picasso’s Woman with an Orange Beret and a Fur Collar (Marie-Thérèse) (1937) from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection, which passed on at $14 million – $1 million short of its low estimate.
More publicized was the failure of Vincent Van Gogh’s Garden Corner with Butterflies (1887), offered without warranty and destined to become the most expensive work from Van Gogh’s Parisian period to be offered at auction. The painting slumped $10 million off its low estimate of $40 million, prompting murmurs among the already shrunken crowd just over halfway through the evening.
The painting’s fizz is particularly poignant given that it was another Van Gogh that fueled Christie’s impressive Impressionist sale last year when the artist’s Plowman in a Field (1889) sold for $72 million ($81.3 million with fees), which may have unduly floated the auction house. expectations for Garden Corner. Max Carter, senior vice president of the Impressionist and Modern Art department, acknowledged after last night’s sale that the price for the work was “ambitious”, but said buyer interest remained high and that he was “confident that the work would sell soon”.
The bidders, however, had their paddles prepared and ready for Monet. The artist’s Waterlily Pond (1919) was the highlight lot of the evening, selling for $28 million ($31.8 million including fees) to an anonymous Asian buyer buying over the phone with Rebecca Wei, the president of Christie’s Asia. The price, however, was still below the $30-50 million estimate. Two other works by Monet were among the first ten lots of the evening, including Young Girl in the Garden at Giverny (1888) which was estimated between $15 and $25 million but only brought in $14 million ($16 million). dollars with fees), suggesting that she sold herself to her third party guarantor. Yet Effect of Snow at Giverny (1893), also guaranteed, made $13.5 million ($15.5 million with fees), well above its high estimate of $8 million.
Only one work carried a house guarantee last night: Snow, setting sun, Eragny (1894) by Camille Pissarro from the Elizabeth Stafford collection. With bids exceeding $950,000, he far missed his estimate of $1.4–1.8 million and as a result failed to sell.
Still, there were a few surprises overnight, including Jean Arp’s marble sculpture Demeter, estimated high at $3M and hammered at $4.9M ($5.8M with fees), and Le blue greyhound by Kees van Dongen, sold for $1.8 million ($2.1 million including fees), more than double its high estimate.