Mediocre Night at Sotheby’s

It was another rough night at the spring auctions, the second of the week’s evening sales of Impressionist and modern art. On Wednesday, many in the art world converged upon Sotheby’s, where nearly a third of the art went unsold. Paintings and sculptures by masters like Degas, Renoir and Picassowere either overpriced or were just not good enough to tempt buyers.
Asian buyers were by far the most active shoppers, bidding consistently by telephone through the auction house’s representatives throughout the evening.
The mediocre results followed an unexciting night at Christie’s on Tuesday. That auction house managed to sell $285.9 million, above its low estimate of $244.5 million but not close to its high of $360.4 million.
For Sotheby’s, there were a few bright spots on Wednesday. Four bidders fought over Picasso’s “Le Sauvetage,” or Rescue, a colorful 1932 scene of bathers on the beach, painted one summer at Boisgeloup, France. It had been estimated to sell for $14 million to $18 million.
This has been a week of expensive paintings by Monet. The sale at Sotheby’s featured “Le Pont Japonais,” from 1918-1924, depicting a bridge spanning the lily pond of Monet’s fabled garden in Giverny, France. That painting is also heading to Asia. Patti Wong, Sotheby’s chairman in Asia, took the winning bid for a client who paid $15.8 million, above its low $12 million estimate.
Sotheby’s also auctioned a Monet seascape from 1882 that was being sold by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The setting of a cliff overlooking the ocean on a sunny day, and the provenance made it particularly appealing. Three telephone bidders were after the painting, which sold for $8.2 million, above its high $7 million estimate.
Sculptures have brought strong prices over the past few years and “La Place,” a 1948 multifigural sculpture that Giacometti conceived as figures in a square, sold for $13 million. Last year, Mr. Krugier’s heirs tried to sell some works in a disappointing auction at Christie’s. One of that auction’s casualties — Picasso’s “Femme dans un rocking chair,” from 1956 — was back on the block, but this time at Sotheby’s. In November, Christie’s had hoped it would sell for $8 million to $12 million. This time around it was estimated to bring $2 million to $3 million. It sold for $6.3 million. Lulu Creel, who runs Sotheby’s in Mexico, took the winning bid on behalf of a client bidding by telephone.

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