Last fall, it looked as though the Swiss auction market was defying the ongoing turmoil of the international financial markets.
ZURICH—Last fall, it looked as though the Swiss auction market was defying the ongoing turmoil of the international financial markets. However, by the end of the year the impact of the crisis on the local art market became apparent in the auctions of Swiss art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.The houses sold a combined 185 out of 302 lots on offer, producing a sell-through rate of 61 percent, down from the 278, or 70 percent, of 397 lots last year. This year’s sales took in a total of CHF 14.8 million ($12.2 million), down from the CHF 36 million ($32 million) total of last year. Sotheby’s sale realized CHF 6 million ($5 million), while Christie’s sale realized CHF 8.8 million ($7.2 million). Most of the top lots at both sales were either bought in or sold below their low estimates, indicating that the reserves had been lowered prior to the auctions.At Sotheby’s sale on Nov. 26, the top lot was Ferdinand Hodler’s painting Der Mäher, circa 1910, created for use on a Swiss banknote. The painting sold for CHF 1.4 million ($1.3 million) including premium, below its estimate of CHF 1.5 million/2 million.At Christie’s sale on Dec. 1, the top lot, albeit for a price near its low estimate, was Giovanni Giacometti’s family portrait Maternité, 1908. The work sold for CHF 2.6 million ($2.1 million), with premium, on a CHF 2.5 million/3.5 million estimate. A highlight of the auction was Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s large installation Der Lauf der Dinge, 1987, which sold within estimate for CHF 1 million ($824,500). CHRISTIAN VON FABER-CASTELL