Bidding Up: Escalating Prices are Putting Pressure on Dealers to Double Down on their Own Artists

(Illustration by Joseph Daniel Fiedler)

Last May, at Christie’s New York, the painting Park Avenue Façade by Abstract Expressionist Michael Goldberg soared to $461,000, well above the $100,000 to $150,000 estimate set by the auction house. The new artist’s record was set by Michael Rosenfeld, the Manhattan gallery owner who represents Goldberg’s estate. The art dealer said  he regularly buys Read More


Records Fall at Gritty $134.6 M. Christie’s Auction

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Sold: $10.5 million | Andy Warhol, Little Electric Chair, 1965

Earlier this evening Christie’s kicked off the spring contemporary auction week with an impressive performance at the one-off sale it had dubbed “If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday” (after a Richard Prince joke painting) and filled with what it termed “the gritty, underbelly-esque side of contemporary art.” It brought in $134.6 million for the house, including buyer’s premiums, at the top end of a high estimate of $124.1 million (calculated without premiums), and saw 14 new artist records, for Joe Bradley, Alex Israel, On Kawara, Dan Colen, Richard Prince, Martin Kippenberger, Wade Guyton, Louis Eisner, Thomas Schütte, Michael Riedel, Peter Doig, Glenn Ligon, R.H. Quaytman and Adam McEwen. Read More

Kenny Schachter

Won’t See You Tuesday…

Imagine: artworks by stars Alex Israel, Wade Guyton and Richard Prince, laid to rest. (Rendering by Kenny Schachter).

Kenny Schachter is a London-based art dealer, curator and writer. His writing has appeared in books on architect Zaha Hadid and artists Vito Acconci and Paul Thek, and he is a contributor to the British edition of GQ. The opinions expressed here are his own.

The current resale market for contemporary art has the attention span of a teenager. To switch metaphors, it’s a nuclear hot potato. How many of today’s 25 hottest will be tomorrow’s stone coldest? It’s always in the back of my mind that the pretty young painting things of today can suddenly become progeroid, stricken by a premature aging ailment in their early market lifespans. Read More


Preview: Old Masters Week Sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s

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The Rothschild Prayer Book, A Book of Hours, Use of Rome, in Latin, Illuminated Manuscript on Vellum (c. 1505-1510)

“Maybe I’m in cloud cuckoo crazy land and I’m crazy, but I think most people are buying because they love the art and they plan to hold on to it,” said Christopher Apostle, head of Old Master paintings at Sotheby’s. “Certainly people don’t want to make silly purchases, but I don’t think people are so motivated by investment as they are about the love of the art.” 

It’s a refreshing sentiment given the motivations of many contemporary-art collectors, and another reason to enjoy the fanfare of Old Masters Week at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. The sales start on Jan. 29, including the second Renaissance auction at Christie’s, which includes tapestry, terracotta, decorative art and furniture in addition to painting and sculpture.  Read More


‘Rendered Speechless': Brett Gorvy Has a Lot to Say About This Week’s Auctions

Gorvy with a work by Paul McCarthy.

Folks, there is effusiveness, and then there is Brett Gorvy.

Christie’s head of postwar and contemporary art has gotten rather, shall we say, excited about the artworks the house is auctioning this season. So excited that he had to tell the world—well, the art world—about it. His poetic musings took the form of two letters, one (“Speechless from New York – A Note From Brett Gorvy”) that landed in inboxes last week, just before the Impressionist-modern auction and another (“Final Thoughts on Tomorrow’s Sale”) that arrived today, on the eve of tomorrow’s big postwar and contemporary sale. Yes, there is practical stuff in these letters (“We have encouraged our consignors to set consciously conservative estimates”). But it is leavened with such romantic sentiments as “It is easy in this profession to fall in love with the objects over which we are brief guardians.” Never in our history of covering the art market (and, dear reader, we are pretty old) have we read such reverential outpourings from an auction house professional. The cynic in us wants to say, “Snap out of it, Brett!” But there is another, very real part that wants other specialists to, you know, speak from the yearnings in their hearts or whatever. Read the highlights of Mr. Gorvy’s letters below, and swoon with us. Read More


Top Lots Fail at Christie’s Disappointing $144.3 M. Imp-Mod Sale

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Sold: $12.6 million | Wassily Kandinsky, Schwarz und Violett, 1923

Christie’s kicked off the official start of the fall auction season Tuesday night with a lackluster Impressionist and modern sale that saw 12 of the 46 lots on offer fail to sell, among them a number of high-profile and high-estimate pieces. It earned a total of $144.3 million that, while respectable, failed to meet the house’s low estimate of $188.8 million (which is calculated without the approximately 12 percent buyer’s premium), to say nothing of its $277.7 million high estimate. Read More

Kenny Schachter

Previewing the London Auctions With Kenny Schachter

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Sotheby's has two Wool lots as well, estimated at £700,000–£900,000 ($1,118,740 - $1,438,380) and £200,000 - £300,000  ($319,640 - $479,460)

Presented here is a selection of slides from Observer contributor Kenny Schachter’s recent lecture at the University of Zurich, “X-Rated: Art of Pricing, Fall 2013.” Taken together, they serve as a mini preview of the upcoming London auctions. All caption information pertains to the postwar and contemporary art evening sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Read More

auction woes

Christie’s, Philips Withdraw ‘Suspicious’ Works From Latin American Sales

Untitled (1957), a painting attributed to Ivan Serpa that was one of ten works withdrawn from the Christie's sale. (Courtesy The Art Newspaper)

Within a week of one another, Christie’s and Phillips pulled works from their Latin American sales after doubts were cast on their provenance and authenticity, The Art Newspaper reports. Christie’s withdrew 10 pieces by Brazilian artists from its sale (which took place on May 29 and 30) after various outside authorities on the artists’ estates expressed concern about the legitimacy of the works, which all stemmed from the Rio de Janeiro-based collection of Ralph Santos Oliveira. According to Mr. Santos Oliviera, he was selling on behalf of his grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and cannot remember where she purchased the pieces in question. Phillips removed a work by Alfredo Volpi from its Latin American sale on May 23. Read More


He Had Their Attention: Leonardo DiCaprio Charity Auction at Christie’s Hammers in $31.7 M., 13 Artist Records

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DiCaprio at Christie's.

Last night Christie’s hammered an impressive $31.7 million across 33 contemporary works in a charity auction organized by Leonardo DiCaprio. Thirteen new artist records were set, with many works doubling their pre-sale high estimates. The night had a total high estimate of just $18 million and most of the proceeds from the auction, titled the Read More