Christie’s International sold $156 million of Impressionist and modern art last night in New York, less than half the year-ago total, as collectors and advisers lamented a scarcity of masterpieces.
“This time around, the auction houses don’t have any great estates,” said Suzanne Gyorgy, head of Citi Private Bank’s art advisory service, before the sale. “They don’t have the iconic great work.”
The tally fell below Christie’s presale estimate of $162.3 million to $231.9 million, with 10 of the 57 lots failing to sell. Leonardo DiCaprio, sitting near the front of the room with a baseball cap obscuring his face, was among the onlookers as Claude Monet’s 1914-17 floral painting “Iris mauves” failed to sell.
Estimated to fetch as much as $20 million, it was the sale’s biggest casualty. DiCaprio declined to comment.
The top lot was a tie. A Maurice de Vlaminck landscape owned by hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen fetched a record $22.5 million, as did Monet’s 1891 painting of poplars, “Les Peupliers.”
The 1905 Vlaminck canvas, “Paysage de banlieue,” is a view of the small town of Chatou in the suburbs of Paris. Yet its palette of bright yellow and deep blue seems more Mediterranean.
“For Vlaminck it’s a pretty key composition,” said Michael Findlay, director at Acquavella Galleries in New York, before the sale. “It couldn’t be a better date, it couldn’t be better colors.”
The seller bought the work from Acquavella in 2002 and according to Christie’s, Acquavella bought it back last night.
Records in 2010
In May 2010, Christie’s achieved records for Picasso and Jasper Johns while auctioning the estates of Frances Brody and Michael Crichton. Its Impressionist and modern sale was a $335.5 million spectacle starring a 1932 Picasso that went for $106.5 million.
“We are seeing a seismic shift,” Matthew Armstrong, director of Peter Freeman gallery in Soho, said by telephone yesterday afternoon. “The shift is toward more contemporary art because great Impressionist and modern artworks are simply harder to find. We don’t see the same level of quality as we did at the peak of the market.”
Pierre Bonnard’s 1936 canvas “Le Petit Dejeuner” fetched $6.2 million last night, just above its low estimate of $6 million. The painting was part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2009 show “Pierre Bonnard: The Late Still Lifes and Interiors.”
Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art sale tallied $170.5 million Tuesday, the smallest New York evening sale at the auction house in two years. A quarter of the lots failed to sell.
“It’s a discerning market,” said Findlay. It “has responded in an appropriate way to what it’s been offered.”
Sotheby’s fell $4.01, or 8 percent, to $46 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading yesterday, its biggest drop in 10 months. Rommel Dionisio, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, called Tuesday night’s sale results “mildly disappointing.”
Cohen’s portrait of actress Elizabeth Taylor by Andy Warhol comes up for auction on May 12 at Phillips de Pury with an estimate of $20 million to $30 million.
Coming Auctions: May 10: Sotheby’s postwar and contemporary art. May 11: Christie’s postwar and contemporary art. May 12: Phillips de Pury’s contemporary art.