LONDON – It was conceived as a covered force stop. Does on-screen auctions really watch what will be “live” art sales from now on?
On Tuesday night, Sotheby’s held a live auction of 65 works of art from seven centuries, replacing the traditional summer sale of an old master, impressionist, modern and contemporary art in the British capital.
This historic mash-up, called “Rembrandt to Richter”, was technically the first major live offer in London since the coronavirus was locked. However, continuing travel and assembly restrictions meant that the auctioneer, Oliver Barker, was once again in a truck in an empty sales room, accepting bids around the world from colleagues on screen, just as he had at the grand opening of Sotheby̵7;s 363.2 million last month. dollars. “Multicamera global livestream” sale. Mr. Barker, always enthusiastic, was in the stands for a little over three hours.
“It’s slow,” said Philip Hoffman, founder and CEO of Fine Art Group, a London-based consulting firm. “However, there is no audience with evenings to attend, and the auction house is making huge savings on catalogs, travel and entertainment costs.”
The choice of Sotheby’s cross-category obtained during the blockade reflected the current reluctance of collectors to offer works of art worth several million dollars at public auctions, unless they have to. If trophies appear, they are usually guaranteed by Sotheby’s or a third party to sell for a substantial minimum price.
If works do not attract interest in pre-sales, they can simply be downloaded to avoid stigmatizing their non-sales. Francis Bacon’s 1986 “John Edwards Portrait Study”, worth at least £ 12 million or about $ 15 million, was one of six works withdrawn from the sale.
Joan Miro’s 1927 surrealist work, “Peinture (femme au chapeau rouge)”, one of a series of acclaimed “dreams” of paintings made in Paris in the 1920s, was certainly sold for at least £ 20 million. Until now, it belonged to sculptor Alexander Calder and was joined by a US private collector identified by Bloomberg News as Ronald Perelman, a billionaire owner of the Revlon cosmetics company, whose profits have declined in recent years. The sale of the painting took 11 minutes. It eventually dropped to a bid from New York for £ 22.3 million with fees, or about $ 28.7 million, which was the highest price of the evening.
“Some things look great online,” said Hugo Nathan, a partner at London-based consulting firm Beaumont Nathan. “Some do not. The bold picture is going well, “added Mr. Nathan, who was among a selected group of 30 clients who personally participated in the auction in a socially remote help room.
Rembrandt’s small, sketch-like painting from panel 1632, “Self-Portrait, Dressed in a Handle and Black Hat,” was a less obvious candidate for success in the high-tech “click and brick” auction. One of only three self-portraits of Rembrandt, which remained in private hands, still chased six applicants to £ 14.5 million, or about $ 18.7 million, compared to a low estimate of GBP 12 million.
“If you unload artists from the old master field, they’ll reach buyers who aren’t packed into things that the crowd of old masters take care of,” Mr. Nathan said.
The same could apply to the rare panel painting “Battle on the Banks of the River”, which the pioneering Florentine artist Paolo Uccello from the 15th century recently returned to the heirs of the Amsterdam collector Fritz Gutmann, who died in concentration. camp in 1944. This attracted an auction from 20th century art collectors and sold for £ 2.4 million or about $ 3.1 million, four times the low estimate and auction for the artist.
But in addition to these selected old masters and occasional modern British festivities, such as the 1923 canvas “Still Life with Tulips and a Fan” by Scottish painter Samuel John Peploe for £ 675,000 or about $ 870,000, the most significant prizes were generated. according to the usual names of evening modern and contemporary auctions. The top estimate of GBP 12.2 million or $ 15.6 million given for Fernando Leger’s 1914 cubist painting “Nature Morte” seemed almost routine.
Banksy is now also one of these names called Blue-chip. The Bristol-based graffiti artist certainly used the global marketing offer of the sale by including his triptych “Mediterranean Sea View 2017”, which shows refugee life jackets washed on beach scenes from 19th-century gossip to fund facilities in Bethlehem Arabic Rehabilitation Society. non – profit hospital. The paintings were at his Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. The plot of telephone offers in London resulted in a cost of GBP 2.2 million, or approximately USD 2.9 million, compared to a low estimate of GBP 800 000.
“To love it when they compete against each other in London,” said Mr Barker, who was constantly promoting the new format when bidding. “Look at it on split screens. The future of the auction. “
Overall, Rothrandt to Richter’s sales to Sotheby increased from GBP 65.7 million or approximately $ 192.7 million. Last summer’s impressive, modern and contemporary art reached the equivalent of $ 283 million in London.
Revenues could have fallen, but so could spending. Sotheby’s owner, French-Israeli telecommunications mogul Patrick Drahi, has borrowed $ 1.1 billion to finance the acquisition of the auction building in 2019, and these global sales revenues are part of an evolving high-tech, low-cost strategy that may be the future auction. Sotheby’s said in a after-sales press conference that 150,000 people had tuned in to a live broadcast of “Rembrandt to Richter.”
“Another extremely neat production from Sotheby’s with results to match,” said Wendy Goldsmith, a London art consultant who watched the Sotheby’s online auction. “Today, these sales are the public face of the entire art market.”