One of the mainstays of the auction calendar comes rolling through London this evening; Sotheby’s has the pleasure of kicking off a week of big auction flurry, beginning with the inaugural Impressionist & Modern sales (fashionably, shortened in the industry to “Imp Mod” sales). The Impressionist & Modern auctions have become the less attractive, older sibling, having seen sale prices overshadowed by their cooler, hip younger sister, Post-War & Contemporary. Once the darling of the auction calendar, Impressionist & Modern sales have taken a hit in recent years, due to the increased popularity of contemporary works that have continued to break auction records and dominate headlines. In the 80s and early 90s, the Imp Mod category was the most expensive at auction, led by the Japanese hunger to acquire such works by prolific masters; van Gogh’s Portrait of Mr. Gachet, sold for $82.5 million in 1990, a world record at the time. However, the tides appear to be turning, buyers/collectors are showing a renewed interest and appetite, especially as museum-quality stock of the style is in limited supply. Last November, Sotheby’s sold $422.1 million of work during their evening sale (a record)–will new records be broken tonight in London?
In the spirit of reaching new heights, will current external economical occurrences hinder the market? The Art Newspaper’s Melanie Gerlis makes an interesting prediction; that falling oil prices will hit the art market harder than Lehman Brothers crash (To be determined…) As the turmoil continues to brew in the Eurozone over Greece’s potential exit while Russia slides into a recession and the Chinese market continues to slow down–will these economic woes bleed into the global art market? The high-end auction world has becoming an increasingly international playground for the ultra-rich, and more recently major players from Middle East and Asia have taken a serious interest. The auction results over the next week will provide an insight into the strength and state of the art market…will the bubble burst??
Sotheby’s Imp Mod sales this evening will be led by the Impressionists’ favorite son, Claude Monet. Five of his pieces will grace the auction block (with a combined estimate of $105 million). Leading the action under the hammer is Monet’s Le Grand Canal hoping to fetch between 20 – 30 million pounds. My money is on this masterpiece realizing a sale price near the high estimate of 30 million pounds (and may even be purchased by an American seeing as the dollar is gaining strength…a hunch)–we shall see!
Le Grand Canal by Claude Monet (Photo Courtesy of Sotheby’s)