NEW YORK—Overall sale volume at American art auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, on May 16–17, rose considerably, to $62 million, compared with last year’s total of $49.3 million, but the total was still below the $66.9 million result achieved in 2010 (ANL, 6/14/11). Further, the gains were realized with smaller offerings of works at both houses, with sell-through rates also improved, compared with last spring.
Sotheby’s sale on May 17 realized $34.8 million, surpassing the high presale estimate of $28.4 million and also marking an improvement on the $27.1 million total of spring 2011. Of 59 lots offered, 42, or 88 percent, were sold. Six lots fetched over $1 million each. (Last spring the house offered 121 lots and sold 84, or 69 percent.)
The highest lot was an oil painting by Edward Hopper, Bridle Path, 1939, depicting riders on a path in Central Park, N.Y., with the top of the famous Dakota building visible across the street. It was offered from the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with the proceeds earmarked for the museum’s acquisitions program. Estimated at $5 million/7 million, it sold for $10.4 million to a private American buyer.
It was followed by the vibrantly colored, Tennis at Newport, 1920, by George Bellows, which sold for $7 million, just clearing the top end of the $5 million/7 million estimate. And Frederic Remington’s Western scene painting titled A Halt In The Wilderness [Halt To Warm;? Halt Of A Cavalry Patrol To Warm], 1905, sold for $2.8 million, well above the $800,000/1.2 million estimate.
“The market for American art showed many signs of strength and confidence this week,” said Elizabeth Goldberg, head of Sotheby’s American art department. “Buyers sought quality first and foremost,” she added.
Christie’s sale on May 16 realized $27.2 million, up from $22.2 million achieved last spring, when demand appeared to be slowing again after a brief rebound in the previous year. Of 100 lots offered, 77 were sold. By value, Christie’s sale realized 85 percent. Like Sotheby’s, the house achieved a higher total with fewer lots, and a better sell-through rate this time around: 77 percent, compared with 64 percent sold last year.
Christie’s top lot was Mary Cassatt’s Sara Holding a Cat, ca. 1907–8, which sold for $2.5 million, well above the $800,000/1.2 million estimate. It was followed by Norman Rockwell’s Dreams of Long Ago, 1927, a former illustration for the Saturday Evening Post, which fetched $2.3 million on an estimate of $2 million/3 million.
A US dealer acquired Frederick Carl Frieseke’s Impressionist-style garden scene, Foxgloves, ca. 1912–13, for $2.2 million, also well above the estimate of $1 million/1.5 million.
Another solid price was the $842,500 given for a bronze sculpture by Elie Nadelman, Horse, ca. 1914, that far surpassed the $200,000/300,000 estimate.
Elizabeth Sterling, Christie’s head of American art, said the “well-edited sale,” had yielded solid results that show the “continued trend of strength and confidence in the American marketplace.”