While the sale’s two biggest lots majorly outstripped their high estimates, the Bouguereau flop was a major disappointment. For Sotheby’s specialists speaking after the sale, the problem was not that the artist is not a household name or that the work is of a more classical style than many of the
, and other modern works that are hallmarks of these sales. Instead they chalked it up to the work’s sheer size—it is 20 feet wide. Perhaps few collectors have places to install such a work.
“We were extremely bullish on it, but it’s just not a domestic-sized painting,” August Uribe, vice chairman of Sotheby’s Imp/mod department in New York, said after the sale. “We only received good feedback on it from collectors. This was a wonderful odyssey.”
But the sale confirmed that, when it comes to the Imp/mod evening sales, known quantities are surer bets. The Monet haystack painting was the first Impressionist work Sotheby’s has ever sold for over $100 million, and 13 of the sale’s lots—accounting for a total of about $160 million—were “classical Impressionist works,” according to Uribe.
Sotheby’s will continue to tap the Imp/mod market in its day sales on Wednesday, before the market’s attention turns to more contemporary works at Christie’s in the evening.