Tags: Art | Records | Auction | Collectors

Lesser Works of Art Set Records at Auction

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Tuesday, 02 Jun 2015 12:23 PM Current | Bio | Archive

As the Old Master market continues to ache, Modernist and Impressionist paintings continue to climb in price. Ten years ago, very few people thought that a painting by someone like Basquiat or Franz Kline could bring more than a Rembrandt, but that is today’s reality.

During the last few months, many world-record prices for art have been set at auction. The sky is no longer the limit. Prices for the best 20th century artists are going into the stratosphere and it seems to make no difference if the works are superior.

At Sotheby’s last month, Milton Avery’s "Beach House" brought $1.45 million and "Spring in Vermont" $3.37 million, while Norman Rockwell’s "The Bookworm" fetched $3.83 million and Georgia O’Keefe’s "White Calla Lily" was purchased for $8,986,000.

Sotheby’s also sold a relatively minor Claude Monet titled "Bassin aux nymphéas, les rosiers" for $20.41 million, a rather mundane Van Gogh landscape with stiff figures for $66.3 million, and a rather stilted Picasso portrait of his lover Gilot for $29.9 million.

The Sotheby’s sale had seven works by Monet and one of his water lily paintings sold to an American private collector for $54 million. The two-day May sale fetched $420.4 million. The second day of the sale was the second highest for any auction of Modern and Impressionist art. In November 2014, a Sotheby’s London auction brought in $422.1 million, their all-time high for one auction.

May was also an extraordinary month for Christie’s auction house. For the week of May 11-15, they hammered art in for a total of $1.726 billion! There were over 40 bids above $100 million for a Picasso and 45 bids for Rothko’s ethereal "No. 10," which sold for a whopping $81,925,000. Collectors from over 40 countries feverishly bid up top-quality works by Warhol, Rothko, Freud, Twombly, Basquiat, Franz Kline, and Robert Ryman. It resembled a feeding frenzy.

Several years ago Andy Warhol’s 1963 silkscreen "Colored Mona Lisa" would have sold for a fraction of the price of $56,165,000 reached at Christie’s in May, and 10 years ago collectors and curators alike would have scratched their heads in wonderment to even think that Piet Mondrian’s 1929 "Composition No. III" would ever fetch the $50,565,000. That price was achieved at Christie’s. The Mondrian painting of a few squares set a world record for the artist.

All in all, Christie’s raked in $658.5 million for Postwar and Contemporary Art, but that pales in comparison to all of the $100 million paintings that have sold this year.

Will the top price of $179.4 million for Picasso’s "Les Femmes D’Algre" be topped? Buzz in the art streets says it will. Money is flowing and some of the most wealthy people worldwide simply have too much of it and need to get rid of it.

As they get richer and the common person gets poorer, it looks like only the finest art will escalate dramatically in price. But because of that factor, the rest of the art market will steadily go up, as well, until another bubble bursts.

Patricia Jobe Pierce is a freelance writer, art historian, art dealer-consultant, certified AAA appraiser, public speaker, photographer and American art authenticator for museums, auction houses and collectors. She graduated from Boston University with a BFA in 1965, is owner and director of Pierce Galleries, Inc. in Nantucket and Hingham, Mass., and is author of many works, including, "Art Collecting & Investing: The Inner Workings and the Underbelly of the Art World." For more of her submissions, Click Here Now.






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PatriciaPierce
During the last few months, many world-record prices for art have been set at auction. The sky is no longer the limit. Prices for the best 20th century artists are going into the stratosphere and it seems to make no difference if the works are superior.
Art, Records, Auction, Collectors
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2015-23-02
Tuesday, 02 Jun 2015 12:23 PM
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