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