Sothebys What Recession


Sotheby’s clearly has the lead in volume this season, with 68 lots in the Impressionist and Modern evening sale. With a low pre-sale estimate of $116 million and a high of $165 million, Simon Shaw head of the Impressionist and Modern department was very clear about his message: He emphasized “quality and value” and then went on to say that “The demand is there… bidding decisions are made with rigor, we put together a careful sale that addresses the demand.”

Sotheby’s has several impressive estate collections in addition to many works that are fresh to the market, including the Sackler Estate and the pictures from the Durand-Ruel family, the famous French dealers that made impressionism a household word. Sotheby’s is offering seven works from the Durand-Ruels. The offerings include two works by Pissarro, two Sisleys, and three works by Renoir, including the serenely beautiful Femme au Chapeau Blanc, which Paul Durand-Ruel acquired in 1895 directly from the artist. The work remained in the family’s private collection and has never been exhibited publicly. It carries an estimate of  $2.5–3.5 million. (RIGHT: KEES VAN DONGEN, JEUNE ARABE, 1910)

The hauntingly direct gaze of the cover lot is Kees van Dongen’ fiery fauve Jeune Arabe, 1910. The seminal portrait illustrated the artist’s interest in “exotic” North African themes and shows Van Dongen at the height of his portraiture. It carries a pre sale estimate of $7–10 million. Other notable highlights include Giacometti I’s, L‘Homme Qui Chavire which carries a pre sale estimate of $8–12 million. It depicts a man losing his balance in the unsteady terrain of “the modern world,” and according to Sotheby’s experts it is only one of six works hand-painted by the artist. Hoping to build upon the commercial success of late Picasso seen at auction and last spring at Gagosian Gallery, Sotheby’s rounded out the sale with a late musketeer painting, Buste d’Homme, 1969, truly monumental in scale and subject. The work carries a pre-sale estimate of $8–12 million.

The 68 lots in the evening sale look like a return to a pre-bubble time in the market. It’s a smart sale with very fresh lots some that have never seen the auction block and realistic, priced to sell estimates to entice true collectors back into the market place.