Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Parsing the First Auction Results

So Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale last night didn't make its total low estimate and brought in only 47,033,500 USD (estimated $52–72.2 million). That result seems due more to the fact that of the 49 lots in the sale, 10 (or 20%) did not sell, than too many of those selling not reaching their estimates though. (Sothebys notes that those 10 were "withdrawn, passed, or unsold as of the publication of this list.")

New York Magazine's Alexandra Peers pointed out that fewer of the artists at the Contemporary sales are even close to being younger than Jesus, to coin a phrase, this time round, but two of those who fall in the "under 50" category brought in more than their high estimates (once you add in the buyer's premium, at least). Interestingly, both were women as well:
LOT 49

KARA WALKER
B. 1969
KKK: 'THE PRESCRIPT OF THE ORDER OF THE INVISIBLE EMPIRE - ITS PECULIAR OBJECTS' LISTED UNDER MOONLIT SKIES BY THE GRAND CYCLOPS AMID HIS HOODED HENCHMEN...A NEGRESS, DEEP IN THE WOODS BEYOND, OVERHEARS

150,000—200,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 206,500 USD

LOT 47

CECILY BROWN
B.1969
GIRLS EATING BIRDS

700,000—900,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 1,202,500 USD
Surprisingly, one of the lots that didn't sell (and I'm not sure why, so don't read too much into this) was
MARTIN KIPPENBERGER
1953 - 1997
WIE KOMME ICH IN KRIEGSZEITEN MIT KNOCHENBRUCH UND FUTURISMUS KLAR (HOW DO I COPE IN TIMES OF WAR WITH FRACTURES AND FUTURISM)

dated 12/84 on the reverse
oil and metallic paint on six panels
87 3/4 x 70 in. 222 x 178 cm.
ESTIMATE
800,000–1,200,000 USD
The other MK in the sale, did fairly well, though:
LOT 7

MARTIN KIPPENBERGER
1953 - 1997
UNTITLED

3,500,000—4,500,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 4,114,500 USD
A lovely little Cy Twombly drawing (he's the artist I'd be waving my paddle like a banshee to win at just about every auction) did very well too:
LOT 24

PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN COLLECTION
CY TWOMBLY
B.1928
UNTITLED

500,000—700,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 992,500 USD
What didn't sell (and again, there can be multiple reasons for this) included,
  • A Robert Gober sculpture, Est. 2,500,000–3,500,000 USD
  • A fabulous Richard Diebenkorn painting, Est. 1,800,000–2,500,000 USD
  • An Ad Reinhardt painting, Est. 500,000–700,000 USD
  • A Robert Rauschenberg painting, Est. 4,000,000–6,000,000 USD
  • A Richard Serra sculpture, Est. 1,500,000–2,000,000 USD
  • A Frank Stella painting, Est. 1,200,000–1,800,000 USD
  • A Dan Flavin sculpture, Est. 300,000–400,000 USD
  • Another Frank Stella painting, Est. 700,000–1,000,000 USD
  • A Piotr Uklanski painting, Est. 200,000–300,000 USD
Except for the Uklanski, this list is entirely comprised of very established artists. And with the younger women above and this lot's results:
DAN COLEN
B. 1979
UNTITLED (BLOW ME)

100,000—150,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 386,500 USD
I'm not so sure the jury is in on whether only the established brand names are still selling. It is true that the auction sales have far fewer pieces by younger artists than we saw just one year ago, but that suggests to me more that what the collectors (those who are keeping their Hirst and Murakami's on ice) are buying is the hype, not necessarily that they're not buying younger artists.

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23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, would you talk about why/how these auctions are important to the 90% of artists who barely have gallery representation. It's another universe from my planet.

5/13/2009 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Hmmm...well, my response would be to ask whether you want to live in that other universe? If not, then carry on and don't bother with posts like these (they're admittedly probably more interesting for collectors and other dealers). If so, though, I would argue that being at least partially fluent in the market can help any artist look more ready to be part of it to those who might help you do wo.

5/13/2009 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

do so even.

5/13/2009 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Remind me again why Rauschenberg lightly cuffed Mr. Scull on auction day 1973 at Sotheby's? Hubris?

How social mores change!

What should an artists right relation and right livelihood consist of? What is an artist to do without a money handler to keep their fingers clean and their thoughts pure and their minds like crystal sets, tuning into Yaweh?

Paying attention to auction prices is like watching the DOW. There are tons of companies out there but only a few are watched.

The DOW can do poorly but a few drug companies can make a killing, just as a rising tide can sink the Titanic.

But also, I like the idea of selling work at auction to fix the price for future trades - who can take auction prices seriously when groups of investors pool their money to shore up the prices of their holdings? Tell us more! Surely there is more to it than chandelier bidding and consortiums? What about ideological warfare and identity politics? Personal grudges?

Or do you really think this art work has significant social and stylistic impact above and beyond the 30,000-50,000 dollar mark?

Really? Artists should get out more I guess.

Most artists are happy to sell
their work at cost + a couple grand and gallerist cut - including labor - and there is plenty of work of good quality at a price point well below those cited here - so forgive the common artist when they scoff yet again at the spectacle of money fountaining out of remote mountain fjords.

I agree, if you turn your eyes and ears and pens away from the spectacle, it will cease to exist in our minds at least, if not on Mt. Olympus.

5/13/2009 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

Edward - you were over harsh. The problem is that you, by inclination & professional necessity (you can change the order of priority if you wish) look from one end of the telescope whilst the artist looks from the other. The stress on the phrase 'art market' falls on the latter word & whilst it may be of passing interest to the artist it's inevitably the work of the artist in question that holds the value - & I do not mean that in a monetary sense.

5/13/2009 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Zipthwung, I must have discovered yet another mind-altering side effect of taking Chantix, because your comment makes sense to me. I even appreciate your humor. "Get out more" indeed!

5/13/2009 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Edward - you were over harsh. The problem is that you, by inclination & professional necessity (you can change the order of priority if you wish) look from one end of the telescope whilst the artist looks from the other.I don't see how I was harsh at all (over or other). My statement was meant to acknowledge that an artist need not be concerned with the market at all, but that if they are, it pays to be familiar with the general gist of how it's going.

5/13/2009 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Ed didn't seem overly harsh. But even as a represented artist who's doing OK, I'm with anon; the auctions seem to be in another galaxy from my home planet.

5/13/2009 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Ed,
Just looking at the numbers it still appears that the estimate ranges are 15%-20% too high overall. Christie's has been better at this so we'll see what happens there.

Before this weakness is over I would expect more sales to fall between the low and high estimates, at the moment they seem skewed towards the low end.

I guess we will have to wait until the fall season.

5/13/2009 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger John Andrew Cipriano, Joe Elliot, Julian Lorber said...

Ed, I have to assume you already thought many lots wouldn't sell at auction. 10-20% (in this lumbering economy)

I also assume that many collectors, gallerists and non-artist parties might follow your blog.

How much do these estimates and 1st quarter auction results effect you and other galleries as far as you care to mention?

5/13/2009 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Ah...Jon, Joe and Julian, you're gonna make me show my cards, aren't you?

There is a decided difference between how these results affect our gallery (which is not so much immediately [none of our artists are represented therein], but indirectly they will in how they impact the general confidence level among collectors) and how they can spur dialog, which is their immediate role in the context of the blog.

Comparing this thread to the Pluralism thread (which has an inspiring 89 comments so far), I assume folks are weary of reading the auction house tea leaves, but they do serve as the most quantifiable measure of collector confidence and that will surely impact our gallery sooner or later.

5/13/2009 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

In the Sotheby's May 12th sale, the unsold/withdrawn lots were 20% which is in an acceptable range.

The results for the Christie's sale today should be more interesting as it looked like they had a better selection of works offered. My initial impression was that their estimates were also a bit on the high side.

Regardless, for the rest of us, the Sotheby's May 13th day sale, Christie's May 14th sales, and especially the De Pury May 15th sale should be more informative since there are a lot more art works on the block and at prices more in line with gallery prices.

5/13/2009 05:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with the rules of these auctions, but are the auction houses allowed to list who bought these works? Is this public knowledge?

5/13/2009 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Anon, While I think there must be a record of the sales, I don't think the buyer identity is published.

Awhile back a Picasso sold for a huge sum to a "mystery buyer" and it became a game to try to deduce who it was.

Of course, people who bid on the floor are often recognizable and that information gets out.

5/13/2009 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger John Andrew Cipriano, Joe Elliot, Julian Lorber said...

Ed. In that, people can see how it effects galleries and then of course artists. We'll said Ed. *

I am a firm believer in reading all comments people have made prior to adding one to any thread. That way, you don't ask the same thing twice and have all context to date. With that said I will get back to you in a month or so with thoughts on the "Pluralism thread" and it's 89 comments that I will have to read haha.

Also
Anonymous asked:
"I'm not familiar with the rules of these auctions, but are the auction houses allowed to list who bought these works? Is this public knowledge?"

-It's funny you ask this, the last thread on this blog was very close to that topic..

5/13/2009 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm kind of surprised you love twombly (from visiting the gallery).

5/14/2009 01:08:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Christie's did better.

5/14/2009 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous untitled said...

How many of you have seen Kippenbergers retrospective? I dont know...even though it seems i should like his work, theres something that seems insincere about it. he seems like more of a charlatan than a rigorous conceptualist.

5/14/2009 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Kippenberger... theres something that seems insincere about it.
.
how's that?

5/14/2009 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I too found something insincere about Kippenberger - as if he lacked the ability to sit still and be a good painter or sculptor. In fact he hired someone to paint.

No, Kippenberger is not a painter. Not really.

Like the imaginatively retarded "Pictures generation" he simply could not conceive of a world rich in imagination. Instead he turned back to the world to conceive of what is, as it is.

How morbid.

Nor is K a furniture maker - unless I am mistaken and all of the pieces in the show were made by him personally? A virtuoso! Springing from high stool to table to chair like a child escaping from imaginary lava!

No, Kippenberger is a conceptualist, a realist, a rage filled dwarf.

Conceptualism is indeed an insincere art form, consisting of ideas bandied about on cocktail napkins, wafted on ephemeral thoughts and even more intangible feelings. Did we have a good time? Could we feel the buzz? Ah yes, art!

What conceptual artist has come up with something comparable to The General Theory of Relativity? OR Collateralized Debt Obligations? Or the Bait and Switch routine?

Surely we would have heard?

Many people cite duchamp's brilliance - yet I defy you to quantify that brilliance and deliver it in a deck of cards - I guarantee you you will be picking up all fifty two of them while I twirl my mustache at your rage.

Just another Standard Stoppage, how droll.

No, Kippenberger isn't really an artist - artists make stuff, and apparently (I actually never got into the fourth floor) he didn't make much at all.

But he spent a lot of time doing it, surely?

5/14/2009 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

++I defy you to quantify that +++brilliance and deliver it in a +++deck of cards


I'll ask my Tarot (it's a very good deck).

Dear Tarot, was Marcel Duchamp(s)'s art brilliant?:

Answer (simplified):


First card: The High Priestress: Hmm, this card always denote
some form of intelligence. Somebody who gave a lot of reflection before indulging in any actions. A theorician. It also often denotes someone who reach success late in their life (I don't think that was the case for Duchamp?). Nevertheless there is no fla-fla of the ego here. This person is wise and absolutely honest about themselves. Most of the time they focus on one important project that they deliver
much late in their lives, and they love being surrounded by people
older than them.


Second card: The Sun: High Priestress + Sun in second means
"épanouissement" (I'll look for english word). Ok, it means a
late blooming or fullfillment. This person had conceived some
projects throughout their life, and succeeded in accomplishing it
later on. It also means that their surroundings are very lovable of them, and the more the person advanced in life, the more happy they probably got.. oh but wait..the question is about "the art". It's the same, the art got loved more and more with time. And when the High Priestress receives love it is genuine because it is not only for their beautiful eyes. There is a high respect.


Third card: The Magician: Ah! (I'm not kidding, I'm really doing the tarot). This means the art was radically new. It was the onset or the launch for something. Following the Sun it also means that the artist is not influenced one bit by the influences of others. They will do their thing regardless of the results. It is strange when the High Priestress is in the same deck as the Magician. Their forces are a bit
opposite. The Magician tends to act and think later. "Is the art brilliant?" is already answered by the fact that it is "new" and unlike everything that has been before. Because it is after the sun, the art was also defying the
love surrounding the artist. Testing this love or proofing it.
Not always an easy position.


Fourth card: Judgement: This card often means "you already know the answer". Following the Magician, it means a thorough self-examination has begun. If we look back at the question "is the art brilliant", the answer would be
"this art has just started a thorough examination of itself".
And so thus would be how the Tarot interpretes's Duchamps's art as not necessarely an end in itself, but as a self-examination process, that might help clearing things up for brilliancy in another realm of space time. So it's not as much "right-now brilliant" as an important step towards that.

The result: The Lover: The result is not an answer more than an advise from the Tarot toward the best direction. Here it seems to say to the art of Duchamp (or maybe to me, as I'm the request) "deal with your hesitations" or "it's time to make a choice". If it was to Duchamp it would say, "now it's time for you to decide between the big fat lady
or the young pretty lady". That would be the Tarot's suggestion in order for Duchamp's art to reach a complete state of brilliancy.


Hope that helped! ;-P

(NO, I'm NOT doing this for a living !)




By the way, I missed Kippenberger for stupid reasons, but it did help that I wasn't a fan and there wasn't that much that excited me in New York.

To me Kippenberger comes from Joseph Beuys like Kai Althoff comes from Kippenberger. Kipp sounds like he admitted himself Beuys' mistakes, which wonderful social, esoterical and theoretical
program was turned by the artworld into a fascination for the aura of the artist's personality, or a celebration of his ego (mostly in Europa). So Kipp thought, if art is always going to end up about an obsession for the artist's life
or ego, let's have it focus on it. It's a total reverse of the Beuys's project, but the fact that it spreads in many avenues, and that the base is really one firm concept or theory that affects everything else,is very Beuysian.

Problem is, I don't think I'm affected by this illusion of confusing what an artist does with their persona, Thankfully, not all of Kipp's work are about his persona, but the fact that this part was pushed a lot kind of annoys me. In the end it does seem like Kipp is less important an artist than his program or the PR set it out to be. Maybe a key figure of the 1980's, but not a major figure of the 20th century. And let's no kid ourselves: there was a lot of stuff going on in the 1980's. There is a lot of huge ego there from which to pick the best art.


Cedric Crazy caspesyan

(and my word verification now is Connesse, very close to Connasse (french for cunt))

5/14/2009 09:47:00 PM  
Anonymous untitled said...

what are you guys talking about?

never said conceptual art is questionable- some of its my fave work. but kippenberger seems a charlatan more than a rigorous artist. i agree with cedric (the crazy armenian from canada) that he was not a major 20th century figure and that, in fact during the 80s, there were more interesting artworks being made than his.

though its of course better than the neo expressionist camp.

5/15/2009 07:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedr said...

Do not trust "caspesyan". My father is czech (with some austrian) and my mom, french canadian.

;-)

Cedric

5/15/2009 11:22:00 PM  

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