Fall Art Auctions in NYC

Emily Winston, Arts and Entertainment Editor

On November 4, the auction house Sotheby’s opened the art auction season in New York City with a record for Impressionist and Modern Art. Sotheby’s total sales of $422.1 million was the highest total in the auction house’s 270 years of history. Two sculptures and one painting contributed more than half of that total. Chariot by Alberto Giacometti went for $100.96 million and Amedeo Modigliani’s Tete sold for $70.7 million. The third large sale that evening was Vincent Van Gogh’s Still Life, Vase with Daisies, and Poppies, which added $61.8 million to the evening’s proceeds.

The fall art auction season lasts two weeks and attracts buyers from around the globe. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints by major artists come on the market for sale. Chariot had been off the market since 1973 and another similar sculpture had sold for $53 million in 2010 in Paris. Of the 73 lots available for sale, 58 were completed.

Trying to catch Sotheby’s record, another auction house, Christie’s, was also successful on Wednesday, November 5th. Although total sales tallied only $165.6 million, 35 of 39 lots were sold. Christie’s focus on collectors proved to be successful. Many works sold for two or three times expected estimates. Just as there were three big sales for Sotheby’s, the excitement swirled around Le Printemps by Edouard Manet which sold for $65.1 million, far exceeding the expected $30-$35 million estimate. The impressionist’s oil painting had been in one family’s private collection for a full century and was the last of Manet’s works in private hands. The initial bid was $18 million but fierce competition between seven bidders rang the total above any other Manet. Because previous record for an impressionist painting by this artist was $33 million, the auction floor exploded with applause as the final price was announced.

The auctions continue next week with Post-War and Contemporary works being offered. Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) is estimated to bring in $80 million for Sotheby’s and Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud may score $86 million for Christie’s. To date, the record for a painting’s sale at an auction remains Edouard Munch’s The Scream which sold for $120 million at Sotheby’s in 2012.

The following artists have work to be auctioned in the next week: Warhol, Klimt, Magritte, Rothko, Diebenhorne, Hopper, Braque, O’Keefe, Homer and Picasso. For a private preview of some of the world’s greatest artwork, have a look online at pieces of work that may end up in museums around the world.