Dizzying Acquisitions Are Opposed to a Decline in Sales: up and down

March 29, 2021
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Hockney, Sherald, Salvo and Afro Are on the Rise. Rothko Remained Unsold. Records Are to Be Expected for Botticelli and Rembrandt

According to an analysis made by Deloite, in the first semester of 2020 the sales at auction houses have been averagely decreased by 60%. Analyzing recent acquisitions, it has been noted a worrying rate of unsold stock; on the other hand, a slight rise has been registered in the acquisition price, as compared to the expected estimates. The growth in sales of Helen Frankenthaler started about two years ago and it keeps on increasing, while Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gerhard Richter, Donald Judd and George Condo show lighter uptrends. It’s surprising that Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Black on Maroon, oil on canvas, 1958, 182.9 x 114.3 cm), that was estimated at around 30 million dollars, remained unsold at Sotheby’s New York, and it’s even more astounding that Amy Sherald’s The Bathers (oil on canvas, 2015, 183.2 x 170.2 cm), estimated at around € 150.000, was sold at Phillips in New York for 3.5 million euros. David Hockey sets a new record for Nichols Canyon (acrylic on canvas, 1980, 213.4 x 152.4 cm) sold for 33 million euros. A Hans Hartung’s artwork (oil on canvas, 1934, 120 x 87 cm) also set a record, sold by Artcurial Paris for € 1.951.500 with an estimated price of € 1.300.00 – 1.800.00.

The photographer Irving Penn dominates the auction session at Christie’s Paris with four lots in the top ten; however, the golden palm goes to Helmut Newton, for his Elsa Peretti as a Bunny (1975, 102 x 67 cm) has been sold for € 400.000. As for the Italian painters, Salvo is quickly rising, and also Mario Schifano and Afro Basaldella are growing with important acquisitions at Sotheby’s. The first (Ossigeno Ossigeno, 1965, varnish on canvass, 225 x 150 x 7cm) has been sold for € 678.000 with an estimate of € 260.000 – 350.000, while the second (Viale delle Acacie,1958, oil on canvas, 80 x 120 cm) has been sold for € 327.00 with an estimate of € 150.00 – 200.000. All of the attention is focused on Ritratto di giovane con medaglione (perhaps paited by Giovanni de’ Medici known as “Il Popolano”, tempera on poplar panel, 58.4 x 39.4 cm), dated between 1480, probably the last Reinassence portrait made by Sandro Botticelli that still belongs to a private entity. The painting, estimated around 80 million dollars, will be auctioned at Sotheby’s New York the next 28th of January. It is expected to set such a score to place Botticelli in the empyrean of the history of the art market. The only counterpoint is a small oil on panel (16 x 21 cm) portraying Abraham and the angels (Abramo e gli angeli, 1946), credited to Rembrandt and estimated around 20-30 million dollars.

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The Author

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Elena Caverzan took a bachelor’s degree in Conservation of Cultural Heritage and Performing Arts Management in Venice and is completing the Master's Degree Programme in Contemporary Art History. She loves classical music, horse riding, Russian literature and Disney movies. Her motto is "if you are not a poet, be poetry”. PS. She runs the "Aste/Auctions" column in AW ArtMag.

 

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