FOR THE BUSINESS OF ART
June 12, 2004
Sargent Portrait Sweeps Robust American Sales
NEW YORK—American art auctions at NEW YORK—American
art auctions at Christie's and Sotheby's on May 18– 19 achieved a combined total
of almost $75 million, with sell–through rates running to 87 percent at
Sotheby's and 76 percent at Christie's. Sotheby's sale fetched $48.7 million,
while Christie's realized $26.1 million. The total is well above last spring's
tally of nearly $50 million, despite that season's boost from the sale of the
Potamkin collection at Sotheby's (see ANL, 6/10/03).
Commenting on the auctions, New York dealer Ira Spanierman said the results were
strong for many lots, not just the most prominent works in the sales: "Star
pictures really take off and every picture that's halfway decent brings a solid
result. Pictures are bringing triple what they brought a couple of years ago. I
think people are ready to pay more money for things because the supply is
New York dealer Warren Adelson agreed: "The market has been rather strong for
the past six months. There is a lot of money around. We all assumed the auctions
would do rather well, and they did."
The highest price was achieved at Sotheby's when Las Vegas collector Steve Wynn
paid $8.8 million (estimate: $5/7 million) for an 1885 John Singer Sargent
portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife. The 20–by– 24– inch oil was one
of seven works from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney that were
sold by Sotheby's to benefit the Greentree Foundation, a private foundation
dedicated to furthering human rights and international cooperation. Works from
the Whitney collection, particularly Pablo Picasso's record–setting Garзon а la
pipe, 1905, had set the tone in Impressionist sales earlier in the month as well
(see ANL, 5/25/04).
At Sotheby's American sale, the Whitney trove included two more works by Sargent
that were sold among the top ten lots and together reached a total of $17.1
million. Four other works from the Whitney collection brought $2 million, for a
total of $19 million. Sotheby's said the portrait of Stevenson and his wife will
be included in the Wynn Collection, which will be on view to the public when
Wynn's new casino, the Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Country Club, opens in Las
Vegas in 2005.
Among other works in the top ten lots at Sotheby's, auction records were set for
Severin Roesen's mid– 19th–century Still Life with Flowers and Fruit in a
Landscape, which fell to a private collector for $1.6 million, three times its
Records also were set for 19th–century landscape painter John F. Kensett, whose
On the Coast, Beverly shore, Massachusetts, 1872, fetched $988,000; and 20th–
century modernist Oscar Bluemner, whose American Night–Red Glare, 1929, went for
$904,000. Both works were sold above estimate to dealers, and the Kensett
picture surpassed a record set only the previous day at Christie's.
Among notable lots that failed to sell were a late oil by Georgia O'Keeffe,
Black Place No. IV (estimate: $2/3 million), and Maurice Prendergast's oil The
Seashore, circa 1918– 23 (estimate: $1/1.5 million). Adelson said the
Prendergast "lacked the tapestry effect and harmony of the best Prendergast oils."
Further, Adelson added, the abstracted landscape represented in the O'Keeffe
painting is "not everyone's subject when it comes to O'Keeffe."
The highlight of the Christie's auction was the $6.17–million purchase of
Charles Willson Peale's painting George Washington, ca. 1780– 82 (estimate:
$2.5/4 million), which was acquired by an American collector. The 50–by– 40–
inch oil portrays George Washington as the commander of the Continental Army
after his victory at Yorktown.
The painting had remained with the family of the original owner, Chevalier de
Chastellux, a French army general who had become close to Washington. The price
realized set an auction record for Peale. "It is a great pleasure to bring the
painting home to America. For over 220 years, the work has been in France,"
declared Eric Widing, a Christie's senior vice president and head of its
American paintings department. As for the sale overall, Widing felt it had
demonstrated "continued strength" in the market. "Many clients bid passionately
for masterworks," he said.
Other notable lots in the Christie's sale included Winslow Homer's 9– by– 13–inch
Farmer with a Pitchfork, ca. 1874, which went to a collector for $2.4 million,
double the high estimate.
A Prendergast watercolor, Courtyard, West End Library, Boston, ca. 1900, was
sold above estimate to Adelson Galleries for $2.14 million, the second– highest
price for the artist at auction.
A watercolor by Edward Hopper, South Truro Post Office I, 1930 (estimate: $1/1.5
million), failed to sell. "There have been one or two outstanding Hopper
watercolors in the past," commented Martha Fleischman of Manhattan's Kennedy
Galleries, "but that wasn't an exciting Hopper, and the estimate was very
Fleischman noted that at Sotheby's another of Hopper's Cape Cod scenes, the
watercolor Shacks at Pamet Head, 1937, had sold for $702,400 (estimate:
$500,000/700,000). Also among the top lots at Christie's: Childe Hassam's Rainy
Day, 1890, brought $701,900, well past the estimated $300,000/500,000; Edward
Willis Redfield's Snow Storm, Lambertville, was sold for $634,700 (estimate:
$200,000/300,000) and George Wesley Bellows's Wet Night, 1916, fetched $612,300
— Andy McCord
©2004 ARTnews L.L.C.
London Fire: Heavy Losses
LONDON—An 8,000–square–foot storage depot in Leyton, east London, run by Momart,
one of the world's leading specialists in the storage and transport of fine art,
was destroyed by fire, along with most of its contents, valued at tens of
millions of pounds. Momart runs six warehouses in London, and this one held
about 10 percent of the artworks in its care.
The fire had occurred on the morning of May 24, but because of its severity and
the fact that Momart wished to keep the identity of its clients confidential,
full details of the damage were not yet known as ARTnewsletter went to press.
First reports concentrated on more than 100 artworks belonging to Charles
Saatchi, who supplied details of pieces by 25 artists to the press.
Elegant New Gagosian Space Gives King' Cross a Tonier Name
LONDON—One of the most eagerly anticipated gallery openings took place in London
on May 27, when Larry Gagosian christened his latest premises at King's Cross
with an exhibition of new paintings by Cy Twombly.
Gagosian director Stefan Ratibor explains that "the location was less important
for us than the quality of the space itself"—the new premises afford an extra
2,000 square feet on the first floor that will accommodate the inevitable
increase in staff.
Inside, the building has been transformed into a cavernous vision of light and
space, arranged as three galleries with 17–foot–high skylit ceilings and a grand
reception area. The internal walls are movable so the place could, equally, be
turned into five galleries, or just one. ARTnewsletter talks to the gallery
directors about future exhibits and plans for the new space.