How to Avoid Dirty Art Auction Tricks – artmarketblog.com

How to Avoid Dirty Art Auction Tricks – artmarketblog.com

Having focused my last few posts on the issues surrounding the questionable practices of some art auction houses, I thought it important to let people know how they can avoid becoming a victim of dirty art auction tricks and tactics. The only real way to avoid becoming a victim of the art auction houses is to ask questions and to know which questions to ask.  Below is a list of questions, and the reasoning behind each question, that will ensure that you know exactly where you stand.

Seven questions every buyer should ask before bidding on a work of art:

1.       Does the auction house or anyone associated with the auction house have an ownership interest in the work of art I am thinking of purchasing?

(The reason you should ask this question is that if an auction house has an ownership interest in a work of art you should question whether this would have an effect on the way the auction house markets and presents the work of art in question – as well as the final price.  Auction houses are required to indicate in auction catalogues when they have an ownership interest in a work of art.)

2.       Is the auction house employee who is advising me on my purchases also representing the seller of the works they are advising me on?

(The reason you should ask this question is that it is not unknown for a specialist assigned to a particular client as an advisor to be representing the seller of the works they are advising the buyer to purchase.  If you are assigned an expert advisor by an auction house make sure they are not representing the seller of the particular works you are interested in.)

3.       Is there any doubt regarding the authenticity or provenance of the works of art I am interested in purchasing?

(The reason you need to ask this question is that auction houses are not always forthcoming with information regarding authenticity.  It is worth while making sure that you are getting what you are paying for.)

4.       Who has authenticated the works of art I am interested in purchasing, what qualifications do they have and what evidence was the authentication based on?

(The reason you need to ask this question is that auction houses have been known to justify the attribution they make using less than reliable information.)

5.       When were the works of art I am interested in purchasing last consigned to an auction and what was the result?

(The reason that you should ask this question is that auction houses are not always forthcoming with information regarding the consignment history of a work of art.  Auction houses have been known to sell the same work of art a number of times within a short period of time and not disclose this information to buyers.  It is important to know this information as it is likely there is reason that this has occurred.  It is also important to know this information because a work of art being passed in at auction can gain a stigma that can reduce the value.)

6.       Does the auction house allow the auctioneer to bid in his own sale?

(It should be obvious why one needs to ask this question, and yes, some auction houses to allow the auctioneer to bid on their own sale.)

7.       What is the condition of the works of art I am interested in purchasing and has a condition report been completed on each work?

(Auction houses are not always forthcoming with information regarding the condition of a work of art. It is generally expected that buyers will inspect a work of art themselves and will be aware of the condition of the work of art.  If you are not able to assess the condition of a work of art then hire an expert.)

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



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The Rise of Victorian Paintings Pt. 4 – artmarketblog.com

The Rise of Victorian Paintings Pt. 4 – artmarketblog.com

WILLIAM SOMERVILLE SHANKS, R.S.A., R.S.W. 1864-1951 TIDDLEY WINKS 150,000—200,000 GBP Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 181,250 GBP

Sir David Scott began collecting art in 1910 and over a period of 75 years amassed a large art collection that included 150 Victorian paintings, all of which were auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2008, more than 20 years after Scott’s death (1986). Scott was an eccentric aristocrat whose efforts to maintain a low profile meant that he was able to put together an extremely important collection of Victorian art at his Dower House, Northamptonshire residence in relative secrecy. Scott’s passion for art, the Victorian period in particular, is evident in a comment he made regarding one of the paintings in his collection. According to Scott:”I don’t think I have ever seen another picture by Somerville Shanks but if this is typical of his work I wonder why he is not better known, for it is really beautifully painted, the dress of the girl in the foreground is reminiscent of Sargent at his best and of course the whole picture is delightfully nostalgic, absolutely redolent as it were, of a day nursery of the 80s or 90s.” This comment is also evidence of how under-valued and under-appreciated the Victorian era is, particularly the work of Victorian painters.

The length of time that the paintings in the Scott collection had remained off the market made the sale even more enticing to collectors and connoisseurs who turned out in force to take advantage of the opportunity. “A Great British Collection” was the title given to the sale – a move that Sotheby’s hoped would distance the sale from the stigmas associated with the word “Victorian” and bring more people to the sale. At the time of the sale, in November 2008, the art market was still reeling from a major crisis of confidence brought about by the hyperinflated market for contemporary art, which led to many art market commentators making rather sceptical predictions about the sale. Because the market for Victorian paintings was dominated by a small number of passionate collectors and connoisseurs, there was particular concern when the auction took place due to the fact that the removal of even one of the main patrons of the Victorian era could spell disaster for the whole Victorian paintings market.

To be continued……

Part 1:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/02/25/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-part-1-artmarketblog-com/

Part 2:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/04/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-2-artmarketblog-com/

Part 3:

http://artmarketblog.com/2010/03/11/the-rise-of-victorian-paintings-pt-3-artmarketblog-com/

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

Sotheby’s Changes to Franchise in Oz – artmarketblog.com

Sotheby’s Changes to Franchise in Oz – artmarketblog.com

sothebysIn what I understand is an unprecedented event, Australian auction house Bonhams and Goodman Auctioneers will ditch the Bonhams brand and relaunch as the Australian arm of Sotheby’s. According to the ACCC website, “First East Auction Holdings trading as Bonhams & Goodman proposes to acquire auction business and associated assets of Sotheby’s Australia and also obtain a licence to use the Sotheby’s trademark in Australia and New Zealand for a period of 10 years.”

Sotheby’s International has operated a branch in Australia since 1982 but will now hand over the reins to Tim Goodman, head of Bonhams and Goodman, along with a license agreement which gives Goodman the right to operate under the Sotheby’s name. Bonhams, on the other hand, will now manage their own operations in Australia instead licensing their name to another company. According to Bonhams: “Bonhams 1793 – a shareholder in the Australian company First East Auction Holdings Limited (FEAHL), which has traded for six years as Bonhams & Goodman – announced today that Bonhams 1793 will launch its own independent operation in Australia, looking to expand its presence in this important market as part of Bonhams operations in 25 countries around the world.”

At the beginning of the year there were rumours spreading that Sotheby’s would follow Christie’s and abandon Australia all together so it is a relief for the Australian art market that Sotheby’s are not jumping ship. Sotheby’s licenses their name to real estate agents through the Sotheby’s Realty brand which was purchased by Cedant Corporation in 2004 but, from what I can gather, has not licensed their name to an auction house in this way before. According to my sources, Sotheby’s is very reluctant to lend their name to anyone so is obviously very trusting of Tim Goodman and seems keen to maintain a presence in Australia.

On a less positive note Artemis Auctions, the Australia art auction house aimed at the middle market which was started at the beginning of this year, has been re-absorbed by the parent companies after poor results. Mossgreen Auctions and Deutscher and Hackett Auctions were responsible for the ambitious venture that supposed to be filling what was thought to be a gap in the lower to middle market. When artemis auctions was started at the beginning of the year I  with the statement made by the owner of the auction house, Paul Sumner, who said that the lower and middle market was under serviced. In fact, my impression was that this sector of the market was in fact over serviced; an opinion that I made clear on my Australian Art Market Blog. And I was right.  It is a shame that the business was not a success but such is life.

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

Sold to Richard Green – artmarketblog.com

Sold to Richard Green – artmarketblog.com

Thomas Gainsborough R.A., A Pug, oil on canvas

Thomas Gainsborough R.A., A Pug, oil on canvas

While browsing through the top results of recent auctions, as provided by Sotheby’s through their press releases, I came across something that I don’t see to often – the identity of a buyer listed in the release. Usually under the heading “Buyer” there is an indication of what sort of buyer they are and sometimes where they are from. Examples of the usual identities given to buyers are: UK Private, UK Trade, Private European Collector, London Trade or, as is often the case, a buyer is listed as anonymous. I continued perusing the press releases when I came across another with the same buyer once again identified as having purchased a painting that had achieved one of the ten highest prices of the auction. The buyer in question was the very well known London art dealer Richard Green who dabbles in everything from 17th century Old Masters to 20th century British art but is best known for his dealings in Old Master paintings.

In a market where a high level of discretion is the norm for both buyers and sellers it is interesting that a dealer in Old Master paintings, of all people, would be so transparent with their dealings. It makes sense though that if you are a dealer and want to sell a painting that having your name on the press release identifying you as the successful bidder would not only advertise your business but attract potential buyers. This tactic seems to be working quite well for Mr. Green whose business seems to be fairing extremely well in the current climate. There is, however, more to the story of Richard Green and his success as an art dealer. Much more in fact. To start with, the two works that I said were listed by Sotheby’s as having been purchased by Mr. Green are rather revealing. The first painting was purchased on the 9th of July from the Sotheby’s Early British Paintings sale and was an oil on canvas by Thomas Gainsborough titled “A Pug”. Listed with an estimate of 100,000-150,000 pounds, “A Pug” was purchased by Green for £993,250 (including premium) which, other than being more then six times the high estimate, was the highest price of the auction. The second work was a painting by Herbert Olivier titled “Summer Is Icumen In” which Green purchased  from Sotheby’s July 15 Victorian & Edwardian Art sale. He paid for 331,250 pounds against an estimate of 80,000—120,000 pounds estimate – a new record for the artist at auction and the third highest price of the sale.

Richard Green is known for identifying then purchasing works of art that he, as a results of his research, has identified as being undervalued. In fact, there are many reports of Green uncovering hidden gems which he then manages to on-sell for many times more than he paid for them. Both “A Pug” and “Summer Is Icumen In” were purchased by Green for well above the high estimate which suggests that Green identified these two works as being undervalued. One thing is for sure, he would not have paid what he did for these two works unless he was confident that they would appeal to his wealthy clientele and that he would be able to make a profit from them. Exactly what Green knows about these two paintings that makes them so much more valuable than the estimate provided by Sotheby’s I do not know. What I do know is that the research Green does, and his scholarly knowledge of the art he deals in, has played a major role in his success. One of the smartest dealers around if you ask me.

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

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Surprises – artmarketblog.com

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Surprises – artmarketblog.com

Alexander Calder Ebony Sticks in Semi-Circle 1934 $3,498,500 Sotheby’s New York May 12, 2009

Alexander Calder Ebony Sticks in Semi-Circle 1934 $3,498,500 Sotheby’s New York May 12, 2009

I always find it interesting to look at the lots from a particular auction that achieved prices well in excess of expectations because I find you can tell a lot about market trends and the state of the market for particular types of work from this information. The recent May contemporary art auctions were especially important because of the impact that the global financial crisis and subsequent art market correction has had on the market for contemporary art. It is immediately evident from the results that buyers are paying less for works of art and spending less on average on works of art but this comes as no surprise as the market begins to adjust to the new reality of the market for art. Now that the market is showing signs of stability there is a new benchmark beginning to develop that we can use to track trends, assess auction results and determine what direction the art market is heading. I don’t think that the art market has quite finished finding it’s feet but judging by the recent auctions we are not far off.

Looking at the lots that exceeded expectations from the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening and Day sales that took place on the 12th and 13th of May can tell us several things about the market for contemporary art. First of all, buyers still have confidence in the work of the worlds top contemporary artists and are willing to pay good money for quality works by these artists within reason. Works valued up to the US$1,000,000 mark seem to be very popular at the moment with healthy competition for works and buyers appearing to be quite comfortable purchasing at this price range. Seven of the eight highest achieving works from Sotheby’s evening sale of more expensive works had high estimates under $1,000,000. Even more popular are original works of art with estimates up to the $100,000 with competition for the best works by the big names producing some great results. Seven of the eight highest achieving works (hammer price compared to estimate) from Sotheby’s day sale of lower priced works had high estimates under US$100,000. As you can see from the results below there was far more competition for less expensive works (under $100,000 especially) from Sotheby’s day sale than there was for more expensive works from the evening sale. It is also pleasing to see that works by up and coming contemporary artists are also seeing plenty of action provided that they are under the $100,000 mark.

Surprise Results from Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Auctions:

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction May 12

Lot 4: Andy Warhol ‘Kellogg’s Cornflakes [Los Angeles Type]
sinkscreen on plywood
Estimate: $200,000-$300,000
Hammer Price: $400,000

Lot 5: Dan Colen ‘Untitled (Blow Me)’
oil on canvas
Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000
Hammer Price: $320,000

Lot 15: Alexander Calder ‘Ebony Sticks In Semi-Circle’
wood, steel and string standing mobile
Estimate: $1,000,000 – $1,500,000
Hammer Price: $3,050,000

Lot 25: Gerhard Richter ‘Mirror Painting (Blood Red)’
pigment on glass
Estimate: $600,000 – $800,000
Hammer Price: $1,100,000

Lot 35: Richard Prince ‘Can You Imagine’
acrylic and silkscreen on canvas
Estimate: $600,000 – $800,000
Hammer Price: $1,150,000

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction May 13

Lot 104: Alexander Calder ‘Untitled’
painted metal and wire standing mobile
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000
Hammer Price: $270,000

Lot 111: David Hockney ‘Aubergine’
pastel and colored pencil on paper
Estimate: $15,000-$20,000
Hammer Price: $39,000

Lot 119: Philip Guston ‘Untitled’
ink on paper
Estimate: $200,000 – $300,000
Hammer Price: $340,000

Lot 131: Alex Katz ‘Folding Chair’
oil on canvas
Estimate: $60,000-$80,000
Hammer Price: $120,000

Lot 158: Lucio Fontana ‘Concetto Spaziale Attese’
waterpaint on canvas
Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000
Hammer Price: $220,000

Lot 162: Robert Mangold ‘Plane Figure Study A (Double Panel) Study
acrylic and black pencil on canvas
Estimate: $150,000 – $200,000
Hammer Price: $250,000

Lot 173: Lee Ufan ‘From Line, No. 78154’
pigment suspended in glue, on canvas
Estimate: $50,000-$70,000
Hammer Price: $100,000

Lot 176: Elsworth Kelly ‘Light Green Panel’
painted aluminium
Estimate: $70,000 – $90,000
Hammer Price: $130,000

Lot 185: Andy Warhol ‘Untitled (Diamond Dust Shoes)’
acrylic and silkscreen on canvas
Estimate: $80,000 – $120,000
Hammer Price: $180,000

Lot 194: Andy Warhol ‘Camouflage’
silkscreen on paper
Estimate: $12,000 – $18,000
Hammer Price: $32,000

Lot 198: Andy Warhol ‘Look Years Younger’
graphite on sketchbook paper
Estimate: $10,000 – $15,000
Hammer Price: $34,000

Lot 203: Andy Warhol ‘Detail of the Last Supper’
synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas
Estimate: $80,000-$120,000
Hammer Price: $180,000

Lot 209: Tom Wesselmann ‘Upside Down Blue Nude #2’
oil on canvas
Estimate: $220,000-$280,000
Hammer Price: $340,000

Lot 230: Neil Jenney ‘Saw and Sawed’
acrylic and graphite on canvas in artist’s frame
Estimate: $180,000-$250,000
Hammer Price: $420,000

Lot 305: Jr ‘Favela’
chromogenic print on metallic paper mounted on aluminum
Estimate: $10,000-$12,000
Hammer Price: $20,000

Lot 339: Damien Hirst ‘N-T Boc-L-Alanine N-Hydro Ester’
household gloss on canvas
Estimate: $20,000-$30,000
Hammer Price: $42,000

Lot 364: Makoto Saito ‘Portrait of Laurence (Recognition)’
acrylic and oil ink on canvas mounted on wood
Estimate: $150,000-$200,000
Hammer Price: $280,000

Lot 400: William Kentridge ‘Anamorphic Drawing’
charcoal on paper in Plexiglas box, stainless steel cylinder on steel support
Estimate: $15,000-$20,000
Hammer Price: $26,000

Lot 428: John Currin ‘The Living Room’
ink and watercolor on paper
Estimate: $20,000-$30,000
Hammer Price:$60,000

Lot 450: Barbara Kruger ‘Untitled (Open Wide)’
photographic silkscreen ink on vinyl
Estimate: $50,000-$70,000
Hammer Price: $120,000

Lot 451: Barbara Kruger ‘Untitled (We Are Transformed Into Special Effects)’
unique photographic montage in red painted artist’s frame
Estimate: $60,000-$80,000
Hammer Price: $110,000

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

NY Art Auctions Feel the Heat – artmarketblog.com

NY Art Auctions Feel the Heat – artmarketblog.com

Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait de Marjorie Ferry, 1932

Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait de Marjorie Ferry, 1932

Since January 2008, prices in the Impressionist & Modern Art segment have posted a cumulative fall of roughly 30% and they contracted no less than 10% in the first quarter of 2009 alone. So, inevitably, the first day of the Impressionist & Modern Art sales in New York was awaited as a test of the top-end of the market. By the end of the two evening sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s the verdict was clear: with sales revenues just half their previous year totals and some major works bought in or withdrawn from sale, the market appears to be demanding even larger adjustments to price estimates.

Anticipating weaker demand, the auctioneers had diminished the size of their catalogues by roughly half compared with 2007 resulting in a low bought-in rate (20% on average), but drastically reduced total revenue figures. The correction has been particularly severe for Sotheby’s who were expecting $81.5m from their 5 May sale but only generated $52.9m. Remember that on 7 May 2008, Sotheby’s fetched $208m for its Impressionist & Modern Art sale. This disappointing result is partly due to the financial context, but it also reflects buyers’ overall sentiment with respect to the two aggressively priced star lots: Alberto GIACOMETTI le Chat and Pablo PICASSO’s La Fille de l’artiste a deux ans et demi avec un bateau both of which were bought in at just a couple of million dollars below their low estimates of $16m. In the more favourable context of May 2008, Sotheby’s fetched $15.5m for Picasso’s Le baiser, a large painting executed in 1969. Today, bids above the $10m line are much less common: only Christie’s managed to generate a successful 8-figure bid over the 2 days of sales and that was for Picasso’s Mousquetaire a la pipe which fetched $13m. The same piece was last sold at auction for $6.4m by the same auctioneer in November 2004.

This year, the two major auction houses were both seeking to set new records for Tamara LEMPICKA de whose paintings appear rarely at public sales. In 2008, for example, only 5 of her paintings were auctioned compared with 12 in just two days this year as Sotheby’s offered 10 works from the collection of German fashion designer Wolfgang Joop. On 5 May, Portrait of Marjorie Ferry set a new record for the artist at $4.3m. The following day, Christie’s substantially exceeded that score with $5.4m for Portrait de Madame M.

At the end of the two evening sales, Christie’s posted a better overall result than its rival with a revenue total of $89.4m from 38 lots. Apart from the disappointment of a Max ERNST’s Malédiction à vous les mamans that was expected to generate a record but was finally withdrawn from the sale (estimated at $7-9m), Christie’s generated a number of respectable results including $6.8m for Buste de Diego (Stele III) by Alberto Giacometti and $6.8m for another Picasso, Femme au chapeau, (just below its low estimate of $8m). Sotheby’s best result came from a 1932 Piet Mondrian painting which doubled its estimate at $8.2m. This result was undoubtedly carried by the recent record of $24.6m (€19.2 m) generated by Christie’s at the famous Y.Saint Laurent & P.Bergé sale in Paris in February of this year.

Although Sotheby’s sales figures signal a serious depression on the New York market, the majority of art market players seem relatively optimistic (the AMCI at over 40 points on 11 May) buoyed by excellent purchase opportunities after recent price reductions.

Copyright@Artprice.com

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

Sotheby’s May 2009 NY Contemporary Art Sale – artmarketblog.com

Sotheby’s May 2009 NY Contemporary Art Sale – artmarketblog.com

 MARTIN KIPPENBERGER 1953 - 1997 UNTITLED  3,500,000—4,500,000 USD

MARTIN KIPPENBERGER 1953 - 1997 UNTITLED 3,500,000—4,500,000 USD

Sotheby’s 12 May 2009 New York Contemporary Art Evening Sale bought in a total of $40,080,000 (hammer price) against a mid estimate of $62375000 which reflects the continuing decline in the value and desirability of contemporary art. A total of 39 works sold from the small catalogue of 49 works which gave Sotheby’s a respectable 80% clearance rate for the sale. Despite the good clearance rate results were mixed with seven works selling for above their high estimate, twenty within their estimate and twelve below their estimate.

The top performing lots were Alexander Calder’s ‘Ebony Sticks in Semi-Circle’ which sold for $3,050,000 against an estimate of $1,000,000-$1,500,000, Dan Colen’s ‘Untitled (Blow Me) which sold for $320,000 against an estimate of $100,000-$150,000 and Richard Prince’s ‘Can You Imagine’ which sold for $1,150,000 against an estimate of $600,000-$800,000. The most expensive work was Jeff Koons ‘Baroque Egg with Bow’ which failed to break the low estimate selling for $4,800,000 against an estimate of $6,000,000 – $8,000,000 followed by the cover lot, Martin Kippenberger’s ‘Untitled’, which scraped in just above the low estimate selling for $3,600,000.

The biggest disappointments of the auction were Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Transom’ which failed to sell with a $4,000,000 – $6,000,000, Robert Godber’s ‘Untitled’ which failed to find a buyer with a $2,500,000 – $3,500,000 and Richard Diebenkorn’s ‘Cane Chair-Outside’ which remained unsold with a $1,800,000 – $2,500,000 estimate. The total value of the 10 works that failed to sell was $11,450,000 which contributed significantly to the mediocre result. Of the 39 lots that sold, the average price was $1,027,692.

Considering that Sotheby’s 2008 May Contemporary Art Auction bought in a total of $320,640,000 (hammer price) for 85 lots, the 2009 result looks ridiculously low in comparison. An average price for the 2008 auction of $3,777,2235 compared with the average price of $1,027,692 for the 2009 auction shows that the prices people are willing to pay for contemporary art have dropped dramatically. In fact, the closest results to the 2009 auction come from the 2004 auction where a total of 60 works sold for 65,670,400 USD with the highest price paid for a work being $5,104,000 (including premium) for Lichtenstein’s ‘Step-On Can with Leg’ and the average price paid for a work turning out to be 1,094,506.

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