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Sharp Drop in Volume at Autumn Print Auctions

Christie’s and Sotheby’s realized near-identical totals for each of their two-day series of prints and multiples auctions late last month.

NEW YORK—Christie’s and Sotheby’s realized near-identical totals for each of their two-day series of prints and multiples auctions late last month.

In sales held Oct. 28–29, Christie’s realized a total of $8.2 million for 756 lots offered. Of these, 462, or 61 percent, were sold. Sotheby’s smaller sales on Oct. 30–31 took in $8.3 million for 566 lots offered, with 332, or 59 percent, sold. The $16.5 million combined sales total for the two houses represents a steep drop from last fall, when each house took in just over $16 million apiece, for a total of more than $33 million.

A lithograph by Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1895–1902, topped Christie’s sales, fetching $650,500, within the estimate of $600,000/800,000, from a U.S. dealer. Pablo Picasso’s La femme au tambourin, 1938/39, also brought a solid price, taking in $578,500 (estimate: $500,000/700,000). Henri Matisse’s Marie-José en robe jaune, 1950, realized $170,500, above its estimate of $100,000/150,000, and Jasper Johns’s Target, 1974, took $152,500 against an estimate of $140,000/180,000.

Christie’s head of prints Tudor Davies said that the “highlights of the sale came from the modern section. Demand for Postwar and contemporary prints remained steady with sustained bidding by U.S. trade and private buyers.”

At Sotheby’s, the top price of the auction was the $1 million given by a European collector for Marilyn, a set of ten screenprints by Andy Warhol (estimate: $1 million/1.5 million). The prints were consigned to the sale from the Helga and Walther Lauffs Collection.

Also from the Lauffs collection, a set of ten lithographs by Johns, Color Numeral Series, 1969, sold for $326,500 to a U.S. buyer (estimate: $250,000/300,000). A 1962 Picasso print, Buste de Femme au Chapeau, brought $302,500, in the middle of the estimate of $250,000/350,000.

Mary Bartow, director of Sotheby’s prints department, said that the house was pleased with the outcome of the sale given the “difficult market,” and noted “active participation from private clients globally, but at a more conservative level.”

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