Featured in Spear's Magazine: "Disappointing modern art sale at Sotheby’s could belie a shifting market"

Pablo Picasso, Buste de Femme de Profil (Femme Ecrivant), 1932

Pablo Picasso, Buste de Femme de Profil (Femme Ecrivant), 1932

Published in Spear's Magazine, 20 June 2018

It was a slow start to the summer for Sotheby's as the Impressionist and Modern evening sale failed to reach its pre-sale estimate, writes Olenka Hamilton

There was disappointment for Sotheby’s Modern and Impressionist department in London this week, when it achieved its lowest total for a sale since 2012. The evening sale reaped just £87.5 million – below its pre-sale estimate and down 32 per cent from a year ago.

Expectations were low from the start, with the pre-sale estimate of £99.7 million to £124.6 million pitched lower than for the equivalent sales in three of the past four years. The auction house sold a disappointing 26 of 36 lots, ten of which fetched below-estimate prices. Even the top lot, Picasso’s 1932 painting of his lover Marie-Therese Walter, which was guaranteed before the sale, fetched £27.3 million, falling short of its £33 million estimate.

‘There were two main factors that contributed to the limp auction results at Sotheby’s,’ explains Ariane Belisle, an art advisor and curator based in London. ‘Firstly, sourcing outstanding masterpieces for the sale proved to be difficult (this was seen in a modest pre-sale estimate); and secondly the fact that Impressionist and Modern art saw very successful sales in spring 2018 – namely, Christie’s Rockefeller auction in May – which meant that the demand just wasn’t there.’

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