Wednesday’s sale was a more sober affair than Christie’s sales in May and last November, reflecting a generally more cautious mood in the art market. And while three works managed to crack the $20-million mark, 23 of the sale’s 55 lots sold for hammer prices below their low estimates. With six failing to sell and another withdrawn, the auction’s sell-through rate was 89 percent by lot. After the sale, Christie’s staff were bullish on the night’s results.
“I wanted to prove that we could sell a painting for over $50 million this season,” said chairman of post-war and contemporary art Alexander Rotter at a post-sale press conference, “because there was a lot of talk about whether or not that was possible.” Many have noted a lack of masterpiece lots this auction season compared to last fall or this spring—one painting over $50 million, sure, but nothing nearing $100 million.
The fall auctions in New York continue on Thursday with day sales of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s followed by Phillips’s evening sale of 20th-century and contemporary art and Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction.