Last week, New York's autumn season was ushered in by a week of Asian art sales at several of the city's auction houses. Christie's and Sotheby's each sold over $40 million of material, mostly in the Chinese categories. Meanwhile, Bonhams' star lot came during their Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian art auction when the so-called Ellenberg Buddha sold for $674,500 and set the record for a Mon Dvaravati bronze sculpture sold at auction.
Sotheby's Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian art sale on Sept. 10 realized $2.6 million, with 58% of by lot and 63% by value finding buyers. An untitled canvas by MF Husain expected to bring as much as $700,000 carried the highest estimate of the sale and was bought in. The sale was instead led by another untitled work by the Indian painter, subtitled Dancers Under a Full Moon, which fetched $290,500 against a high estimate of $150,000.
Sotheby's released second quarter results on Tuesday, reporting that earnings fell 33 percent over the prior year.
In an earnings call with investors, CEO William Ruprecht said results "reflect the global economy, which we're all experiencing."
Sotheby's $85.4 million income declined from $127.2 million in 2011. Revenues dropped 18 percent. Income for the first half of 2012 is down 42 percent compared with the first half of 2011.
Sotheby's sale of Old Master and British paintings in London on July 4th lacked the big-ticket item that propelled Christie's sale the previous evening to $133.4 million. Of 43 lots offered, 29 found buyers (or 67%) for a total of $50.6 million, at the low end of the $41.5 million–$62.8 million estimate (final totals include the buyer's premium, estimates do not).
Two paintings carried estimates of $6.2 million–$9.3 million—the highest of the sale—and both were able to hurdle the low end once fees were added. First was a triptych by Lucas Cranach the Elder dubbed the Feilitzsch altarpiece. Jobst von Feilitzsch commissioned the piece in 1511 for the family chapel, where it remained for over 400 years (he appears on the left panel in a wide fur collar). The painting was sold by the estate of Heinz Kisters, a German businessman whose widow, Gerlinda, offered a late Titian showing the Virgin and Child with two saints at Sotheby's New York last year that brought $16.9 million and set a record for that artist. The Cranach altarpiece sold for $6.7 million, far from the high estimate but still the third highest price paid for a work by the artist at auction.
This week in London the auction houses join dozens of galleries by hosting sales of old master & British paintings during the city's Old Masters Week.
Christie's evening session on July 3 totaled $133.4 million for 54 lots, near the high end of the $95.5 million–$138 million estimate, with 84-percent of the offered works finding buyers (96-percent by estimated value).
Currently on view in the group show "Redux" at New York's Cristin Tierney Gallery (through Feb. 4) are two works by Joe Fig, both related to his 200