Why Works on Paper Sparked Bidding Frenzy – artmarketblog.com

schiele1 Why Works on Paper Sparked Bidding Frenzy   artmarketblog.comLooking back over auction records there is a very distinct trend that links increased demand for works on paper with the peak of an art market boom.  This makes sense because prices for major works by the most highly sought after artists reach a point where they are perceived as being too expensive.  At this point a less expensive work on paper seems like a good alternative.

There are, of course, other factors that can influence the desirability of works on paper such as a reduction in the number of major works on the market, but the “less expensive alternative” argument is quite convincing. This does not necessarily mean that the art market is poised for a correction, but prices can only escalate at a rapid rate for a certain period of time.

The Christie’s New York 31st January Old Master Drawings auction was the most revealing sale with regards to the market for works on paper. A new outright auction record for Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain, was achieved with a pen and ink drawing of a wooded landscape which sold for US$6,130,500 against an estimate of US$500,000-800,000. First published in 1973 by Marcel Roethlisberger who considers it “…one of the most ravishing examples from what we call Claude’s nature drawings…” (correspondence, 3 October 2012), it was once part of the so-called Wildenstein Album which included some of the finest drawings in Claude’s oeuvre

During the same sale auction records for a work on paper were also achieved for Thomas Gainsborough, R.A, whose Portrait of Caroline, 4th Duchess of Marlborough sold for US$2,434,500 against an estimate of US$400,000-600,000; Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whose Comtesse Charles d’Agoult, née Marie d’Agoult, and her daughter Claire d’Agoult sold for US$1,930,500 against an estimate of US$1,500,000-2,500,000; Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, whose Punchinelli preparing a meal of gnocchi and parmesan cheese fetched US$542,500 against an estimate of US$300,000-400,000; and Adriaen van de Velde, whose A seated female nude made US$230,500 made against an estimate of US$120,000-180,000.

A week later during their 8 February London Impressionist/Modern Works on Paper sale, Christie’s set a new record price for a work on paper by Oskar Kokschka, with Tochter des Gauklers fetching £265,250 against an estimate of 120,000 – 180,000.  A collection of Emil Nolde watercolours also far exceeded their collective pre-sale estimate.

Sotheby’s also achieved high prices for a number of works on paper.  During their 5 February Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in London, Sotheby’s sold a  gouache and pencil on paper by Egon Schiele titled Liebespaar (Selbstdarstellung mit Wally) which set a new auction record for a work on paper by the artist with a final price of £7,769,250 against an estimate of £2,500,000 – 3,500,000.  Another work on paper by Schiele sold for £5,081,250 against an estimate of £1,800,000 – 2,500,000.  Both Schiele works were from the Leopold Museum, Vienna.

Sotheby’s also achieved high prices for two works on paper by Degas.  A pastel on paper laid down on board titled Après le bain, femme s’essuyant fetched £7,769,250 against an estimate of £2,500,000 – 3,500,000 followed a few lots later by the artist’s Danseuse rajustant son chausson, also a pastel on paper, which sold for £4,521,250 against an estimate of £3,000,000 – 5,000,000.


**Nicholas Forrest is a Sydney/London based art market analyst, art consultant and writer.  He is the founder of the Art Market Blog (artmarketblog.com) which offers independent commentaries as well as research and analysis on the current art market, and has recently been published in Fabrik magazine, Verve magazine, Visual Art Beat magazine, Australian Art Collector magazine, Art & Investment magazine and many others.  Nic has made several radio appearances (both nationally and internationally) as an art market expert and has received press from the likes of the New York Times, Conde Nast Portfolio and Times of London.

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