The S.I. Newhouse Auction: 16 Paintings, $177.8 Million
One might expect paintings by Picasso, de Kooning, Lichtenstein, Bacon, among others, to set off a firework on the art market from the illustrious collection of the late magazine publisher SI Newhouse, Jr.
But despite that pedigree, Thursday night’s sale at Christie’s kicked off the spring 2023 auction season, which was subdued. Most of the 16 lots sold at predictable prices, in line with or slightly above expectations, for a total of $177.8 million. This is likely due to the market cooling on fears of a recession during the pandemic and a surge in spending.
But it was also because all items were guaranteed and were basically pre-sold to buyers who had promised to pay the undisclosed lowest price, and the sale fueled the indoor bidding and It lends credence to the increasingly common lament that the tension used to make auctions exciting has been lost.
While warranties may soften the feel of the show, they are now considered a staple of the auction market because they allow sellers to avoid the risk of unsold consignments.
In contrast to the recently recorded $100 million masterpiece and the exorbitant price paid last November for a piece of art owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, Thursday night’s sale was a Roman candle. Christie’s highest sale was about $25 million for Willem de Kooning’s 1947 black-and-white film Orestes.
This important early painting, said to mark the artist’s transition from figurative to abstract, sold for $30.9 million, including fees, in repeated telephone bids.
The highest price of the night was $34.6 million, including fees, for a 1969 self-portrait by Francis Bacon. (The night’s total was somewhere between Christie’s highest estimate of $202 million and her lowest estimate of $142 million.)
Since Newhouse’s death in 2017, his legacy has been selling works privately and at auction under the guidance of Tobias Meyer, a prominent former Sotheby’s auctioneer. Thursday’s sale was his third group of consignments. For example, Newhouse’s 1986 Jeff Koons “Rabbit” sculpture sold for $91 million at Christie’s in 2109, setting a new auction record for the artist.
Other highlights include Picasso’s colorful Arlesennes (Lee Miller), one of seven portraits Picasso painted of American photographer Lee Miller as Arlesennes. was During a trip in 1937. The piece sold for $24.6 million, with estimates between $20 million and $30 million.
“This is not a painting for everyone. It’s too wild for some people,” said collector Alberto Mughrabi of the low-energy bid for the work. But he added, “I love it.”
The painting also had a strange backstory. Legend has it that Ms. Miller accidentally stepped into her oncoming lane and was pulled to safety by Condé Nast himself, who signed her as a model for Vogue. She later studied photography under Man Ray and entered into a relationship with him. “We lived together for three years,” Miller later recalled. “I was known as Madame Man Ray because that’s the French way.”
Christie’s management relied on collectors’ desire for irreplaceable pieces. Max Carter, the company’s vice chairman of 20th and 21st century art, said the sale was brokered on the heels of Allen’s sale, which hit the $1.5 billion level at Christie’s in November, making it the largest sale in auction history. Stated. “Those were the results that we could work on,” Carter said.
Not everyone believes the market is ready for more blockbusters. Art advisor Joshua Holdeman said, “There may be more supply than demand for objects that aren’t outright masterpieces.” “The auction didn’t have the effervescence you’d expect from a collection sale, where everything sells for four or five times the expected price.”
Art advisor Todd Levin participated in the auction on behalf of two clients, but ultimately declined to bid. He previously told Christie’s that the estimate for three paintings by Jasper Johns was too high. None of the three works reached low ratings.
“I was overwhelmed” by the auction, he said.
Still, the art market has flouted the ground rules of economics before, and experts say good works of art can still defy logic. Notable paintings in Newhouse include one of Lee Bontecou’s haunting canvas distortions, which sold for $8.7 million (estimated $3-5 million). I was.
Despite the lackluster New House sale, the upcoming auction week is expected to bring nearly $2 billion into the art market. A second auction of 20th-century items held by Christie’s on Thursday night raised $328.8 million. A healthy number, but not an explosive amount.
Holdeman, who previously worked at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, said the market was in a period of recalibration due to economic uncertainty and overcrowded paintings. “Everyone will need to carefully consider their estimates and reserves,” he said. “Auctions are carefully coordinated to evenly leverage sales,” he added. “But there’s no crazy money like it used to be.”