Big Family, Big Bargain

May 28, 2010

Auction houses generally err on the side of aggressive pricing with their pre-sale estimates. It is a rare day that we find a work seriously under-valued when compared with the track records of similar works by an artist. But such appears to be the case with a work by Zhang Xiaogang, The Big Family No. 6 (1997), which will be auctioned at this Saturday’s sale of Asian Contemporary Art and Chinese 20th Century Art at Christie’s Hong Kong.

Estimated at $310,738–414,318, The Big Family No. 6 would be the least expensive work from its peer group to sell at auction. A Big Family from 1995 sold at auction for $76,622 in 2003, although it was resold in October 2006 for $1,452,075.

Even if The Big Family No. 6 sells for double the pre-auction estimate, this particular Xiaogang work will still rank on the low side for its peer group where works have routinely sold for more than $1 million…

To read the full article and comment, please visit Art in America.


Sotheby’s Insiders Sell

May 19, 2010

Gurufocus.com dwells on the details of insider stock sales. March was a good month for Sotheby’s and many insiders were quick to capitalize on the opportunity:

Director Robert S Taubman sold 254,809 shares of BID stock on 03/10/2010 at the average price of 30.55, the price of the stock has increased by 7.63% since.

President and CEO of Sotheby’s William F Ruprecht sells 4,000 shares of BID on 05/17/2010 at an average price of $33.76 a share; 700 shares on 04/26/2010 at the average price of 39; 2,500 shares on 04/20/2010 at the average price of 38; 9,000 shares on 04/19/2010 at the average price of 36.69; sold 15,000 shares on 03/16/2010 at the average price of 29.36

To read the full article, please visit Art Market Monitor.


Good Buys Remain Despite Enthusiasm Of Wealthy New Chinese Collectors

May 19, 2010

Following strong sales figures at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, Bonhams in London, and China Guardian in Beijing (where a painting by Zhang Daqian set a new record this week, selling for nearly US$15 million), many in the auction world are looking to the upcoming Christie’s Spring Auctions to validate recent ArtTactic and Artron projections that the Chinese art market would continue to tick upward in 2010…

To read the full article, please visit Jing Daily.


New Chinese Collectors Power $30 Million London Auction

May 17, 2010

Collection Of 66 Jade Pieces More Than Doubles Estimates As Chinese And Asian Buyers Keep Buying

With Christie’s Hong Kong spring auctions less than two weeks away, Chinese collectors look as if they’re still very much in the buying mood. This weekend at a Bonhams auction of Chinese ceramics and artwork in London, Chinese collectors — mostly from mainland China — continued their global spending spree, going well above estimates and pushing the auction to a total of $30.1 million. As we saw at Sotheby’s recent Spring Auctions in Hong Kong, estimates go out the door when Chinese collectors set their minds on certain items, particularly those from particular Chinese historical periods (the Qianlong era is popular among mainlanders), and this Bonhams auction has likely given the Hong Kong auction world a boost in optimism ahead of the auctions that are set to take place there later this month…

To read the full post and comment, please visit Jing Daily.


Which Johns Flag to Salute?

May 11, 2010

Less than two years has passed since the bestselling author Michael Crichton lost his unfortunate battle with throat cancer. Famous worldwide for his science fiction and medical thrillers, Crichton’s love of modern and contemporary art was less well known—but not that less well known, as attested in the auction catalogue by LACMA’s Michael Govan and Steven Spielberg. This evening Christie’s will auction 31 lots from his collection, including works by such masters as Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and his long-time friend, Jasper Johns.

Indeed it is Johns’ Flag (1960–1966), featured on the auction catalogue’s cover, which will draw the most interest due to its estimate of $10–15 million. It’s the only work in the sale estimated to bring eight figures…

…Though Flag will certainly capture most of the attention from the press and market observers, it is not the only flag by Johns to be auctioned this evening. Flags I (ULAE 128) (pictured below), a 1973 screenprint in colors is, according to Christie’s catalogue, “number fifty-four from an edition of sixty-five plus seven artist’s proofs.” It is estimated to sell for $300,000–400,000. Six works make up the peer group for Flags I (ULAE 128), including one which was bought in at Christie’s last October; their average price has been $518,460….

To read the full article and comment, please visit Art in America.

To read the full article with peer groups, please visit Skate’s.


Shanghai Builds Arts Infrastructure As Beijing Destroys It

May 7, 2010

Is Beijing, As Arts Capital Of China, Shooting Itself In The Foot By Destroying Cultural Hotbeds?

Since the earliest stirrings of the Chinese contemporary art movement in the late 1970s, Beijing has been China’s undisputed arts epicenter, with many of the country’s best and most renowned artists beginning their careers in the city’s early arts districts such as the East Village and Yuanmingyuan, and later settling in arts “colonies” like 798 and Caochangdi.

Over the course of the 1990s, when Beijing’s large-scale demolition/construction boom began to pick up steam, early arts districts like the East Village and Yuanmingyuan met the wrecking ball, but as Chinese contemporary art began to attract the attention of collectors and galleries around the world newer districts like 798/Dashanzi and, later, Caochangdi, Songzhuang, Suojiacun and Dongying – which have become tourist attractions as well as cultural hotbeds in their own right over the past 20 years — appeared to dodge bullet after bullet while much of Old Beijing came tumbling down in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics…

To read the full post, please visit Jing Daily.


Sotheby’s – Again, Not the Bubble Stock

May 6, 2010

The financial press has been filled with hype lately about Sotheby’s share price rising to the stratosphere. Several weeks ago we commented on a blogger’s recent claim that Sotheby’s was the “ultimate bubble stock.” Not so, we argued, pointing out the company’s major progress increasing revenues through an exciting auction lineup, cutting costs and bringing greater geographic diversification to its client base.

Just a few days ago, an article called “Rocket Stock or Dud” by Rich Smith listed Sotheby’s as a stock primed for a correction. Not so, we would argue, at least not so assuming greater stock market health and reasonable sales at next week’s auctions of Contemporary art.

Today, Sotheby’s announced its Q1 results for 2010. Increased revenues of 87%, 14% decrease in operating expenses, a net loss of only $2.2 million for a normally slow first three months — these are the highlights. Although we will dissect the numbers in greater detail earlier next week, in short, we believe that Sotheby’s is doing everything right to please its shareholders and hardly represents a bubble or rocket stock primed to pop or crash. A leveling-out of sorts may still be in order, especially once the excitement of the spring auction season is gone, but investors have no cause for major worry at this point.


Picasso Still #1…With a New Painting

May 4, 2010

In early February, the art market was abuzz with the news that Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man I (L’homme qui marche I) had set the world price record for an artwork sold at auction. In our comment following the sale, we respectfully disagreed that Picasso’s 2004 record for Garçon à la pipe had been broken, arguing that Sotheby’s, at least publicly, had begun using an arbitrary exchange rate that allowed for such an announcement.

Tonight, however, Picasso has clearly beaten his own record. In Christie’s sale of Property from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, which has yet to conclude, Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust sold for $106,482,500, including buyer’s premium.

In itself, the sales means little save for a new record to discuss for the next few days. For us, it means a new placeholder to top Skate’s Top 1000. For art investors, it provides further confirmation that the market for Impressionist and Modern art is far from losing steam, at least for this particular master, which in turn should be taken as an indication that the best deals (i.e., the best investments) surely lie elsewhere at this point.

When this week’s sales are said and done we will provide further post-auction analysis, including on the sales of two Matisse nudes we discussed in depth earlier today (hint: the one auctioned at the Brody sale tonight didn’t live up to expectations).


Chinese Artist Zeng Fanzhi: “I Don’t Want To Be Pigeonholed”

May 4, 2010

Zeng Discusses Childhood In Wuhan, Success In Beijing, Future Plans

Over the past 15 years Chinese contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi has emerged as one of his country’s most well-known artists, surpassing Zhang Xiaogang in sales last year to become China’s highest-grossing contemporary artist of 2009 and proving exceptionally popular among China’s new breed of super-collectors. Last week, at BAZAAR magazine’s 8th annual charity auction in Shanghai, a new piece by Zeng, “Untitled 10-3-23″ sold for 10 million yuan (US$1.46 million), and 100% of works by Zeng up for grabs at the recent Sotheby’s spring auction in Hong Kong sold, pulling in a grand total of US$1.88 million…

To read the full interview, please visit Jing Daily.


Two Matisse Nudes – Two Very Different Prices

May 4, 2010

Since the fall of 2008, the market for Impressionist and Modern art has thrived amidst a general decline in the greater market for fine art, especially contemporary art. And although contemporary art has begun to show signs of a recovery in emerging markets like China and is poised to see major sales next week at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, tonight and tomorrow evening will witness a major test of whether Impressionist and Modern art can continue to generate strong demand.

A number of works by canonical names are up for sale—Picasso, Giacometti, Renoir, Munch. Beyond the eight-figure estimates and the hype arising from the auction houses’ flashy catalogue covers, however, are two particular works, both nudes, by Henri Matisse, which are worthy of comment. Visually, they are very similar in terms of subject matter and, at least at first glance, in style. Their estimates differ considerably.

The first work is Nu au Coussin Bleu (1924, pictured left), which will be auctioned at Christie’s in this evening’s highly publicized sale of Property from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody. This work is estimated to sell for $20,000,000 to $30,000,000. Although two of Matisse’s paintings have exceeded this range in the past—Les Coucous, Tapis Bleu et Rose (1911) for $46,055,344 early last year at Christie’s and L’Odalisque, Harmonie Bleue (1937) for $33,641,000 at Christie’s in November 2007—a successful sale of Nu au Coussin Bleu will further cement his position as one of the most highly valued modern artists. It would also be the highest priced nude by Matisse to ever sell at auction, beating Nu Couché Vu de Dos (1927), which sold for $18,496,000 at Sotheby’s in May 2006.

Tomorrow at the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, Sotheby’s will auction an earlier nude by Matisse, Nu au Fauteuil, Jambes Croisées (1920, pictured below). Its estimate is significantly lower at $2,500,000 to 3,500,000.

Why are these two works, painted four years apart and so similar at first glance, so very different in estimated value?

To read the full article and comment, please visit Art in America.


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