Single-Owner Art Sale Success Part 2 –

Single-Owner Art Sale Success Part 2 –

artcollection3Following on from my last post on the recent success of auctions of single-owner art collections , I think that it is important to look at a few examples of such sales to see exactly how successful these sales have been and to put these sales in context. The first auction that I would like to look at is the sale of “A GREAT BRITISH COLLECTION: The pictures collected by Sir David and Lady Scott, sold to benefit the Finnis Scott Foundation” which was conducted by Sotheby’s on the the 19th of November 08. According to a Sotheby’s pre-sale press release:
“This extraordinary collection is a great testament to Sir David and Lady Scott as collectors and offers an opportunity to acquire works that exemplify two centuries of British art. Sir David was born and brought up in the reign of Queen Victoria and, together with Lady Scott, was a passionate enthusiast of the art of the Victorian age.”
The results of the auction were:
– 87.6 sold by lot and 77.6% sold by value
– 56.6% of the works sold achieved prices above their high estimate
– At least 14 new artist records established
– More than 280 registered bidders in the sale
In the current climate art auctions are routinely achieving only around 60% sold by lot and around the same for value so 87% and 77% represents a very successful sale. In the post-sale press release Grant Ford, Senior Director and Head of Victorian Art at Sotheby’s, commented that “As many of the paintings had not been seen in public
for several decades and were in a wonderfully fresh condition, a great deal of excitement was generated”. He also said “Today’s results are a testament to the discerning eye of two individuals who were collectors in the very truest sense.” These comments are important because they highlight two characteristics that make many of the works sold from single-owner collections so desirable. As explained in my previous post, these two characteristics are a long period since the work was previously offered for sale and the fact that works in such collections are usually chosen for their exceptional quality and rarity.

Another successful single-owner sale was held by Christies on the 13th of October 2008 which was an auction of “Photographs by William Eggleston from the Collection of Bruce and Nancy Berman”. The results of the sale were:
Lots Sold: 54
Lots Offered: 60
Sold by Lot: 90%
Sold by $: 99%
These results would have be exceptional even during the height of the art market boom so to achieve such success during a market downturn is testament to the power of the single-owner sale. In the post-sale press release the Head of Sale, Joshua Holdeman, said that “Head of Sale Joshua Holdeman, comments: “After the 100% sold sale “Photographs by Diane Arbus from the Bruce and Nancy Berman Collection,”we could not be more thrilled by the results from the second sale from the same collection, “Photographs by William Eggleston.” At 99% sold by value and totaling $2,998,250 from a pre-sale estimate of $1.5-2.1 million, bidding was international, and fiercely competitive. Our own world record for William Eggleston’s work was eclipsed this evening with the sale of the Los Alamos portfolio, which realized $ 1,022,500 from a pre-sale estimate of $350,000-550,000.”
It appears from my research that a single-owner collection of works by a single artist attracts even more interest than general single-owner sales. The reason for this is most likely that sales of works by a single artists tend to attract extremely passionate and motivated collectors of that artist’s work which creates a fierce rivalry.

There is definitely a trend associated with auctions of single-owner collections that has emerged since the financial crisis took hold and there are plenty more examples of the success achieved by single-owner sales compared with non single-owner sales. It is important to remember, however, that although the results of single-owner art sales have been very good compared to non single-owner art sales, not all single-owner sales have been as successful as the two highlighted above.   Marc Porter, President of Christie’s Americas sums the trend up nicely when he said “Private collectors continue to be the primary force on the market,
collecting masterworks against a backdrop of a difficult economic climate”

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

3 Responses

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