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Headlines and Highlights: Week of May 19th

Headlines and Highlights: Week of May 19th
May 19, 2023
Keenan Flack

Today pretty much wraps up New York auction week. Macroeconomic troubles have finally seemed to have caught up to the art market; bidding was very subdued compared even to a year ago. Auctioneers were far more patient in waiting for bidders to raise a hand. Below is a few notes on the big sales of the week.


Mo Ostin Sale:


Top Lot: "L'Empire des lumières" by René Magritte - $42,273,000 after fees

Sale Estimates: $103 million to $155 million

Sale Total: $123.7 million

  • A short 15 lot sale from the record industry mogul, only one of which was bought-in; so close to a white glove sale. The highlight was certainly the two Magritte canvases—combined they account for nearly half the sale total.

Modern Evening Sale:


Top Lot: "Insel im Attersee (Island in the Attersee)" by Gustav Klimt - $53,188,500 after fees

Sale Estimates: $290 million to $360 million

Sale Total: $303.1 million

  • The Klimt canvas really stole the show here.  Though it only got bid up to a million above the low estimate, it was by far the most valuable lot of the night.

Now Evening Sale:


Top Lot: "Untitled (Mask Boy)" by Kerry James Marshall - $5,734,800 after fees

Sale Estimates: $42.4 million to $61.9 million

Sale Total: $37,164,700

  • The cover lot of the sale, Yoshitomo Nara's "Haze Days", was withdrawn last minute. The lot was estimated between $12 and $18 million and—if sold—it would have been the evening's top lot. Aside from that the sale was very disappointing, the hammer total only reached $29 million, well below the low estimate even including fees.

Contemporary Evening Sale:


Top Lot: "Spider" by Louise Bourgeois - $32,804,500 after fees

Sale Estimates: $154 million to $180 million

Sale Total: $167,453,500

  • The top 5 lots, the only in the sale to receive 8 figure estimates, garnered $106 million in total. Contemporary evening sales can be top-heavy at times, but these numbers are quite out of wack even in the face of none of the top 5 lots breaking the high estimate—three fell below the low estimate and two within the low and the high.


Masterpieces from S.I. Newhouse:


Top Lot: "Self-Portrait" by Francis Bacon - $34,622,500 after fees

Sale Estimates: $142.6 million to $167.6 million

Sale Total: $177,792,000

  • A far more upbeat sale than most this week. 5 of the 16 lots in the sale broke the high estimate; the Freud canvas, "After Chardin (Large)", sold for $3.8mm with fees against a low estimate of $1mm.

21st Century Evening Sale:


Top Lot: "El Gran Espectaculo  (The Nile)" by Jean-Michel Basquiat - $67,110,000 after fees

Sale Estimates: $68.8 million to $80 million

Sale Total: $98,802,500

  • Another impressive estimate beat from Christie's. The Basquiat canvas did most of the heavy lifting—at 10x the price of the next-most expensive lot in the sale. Even the hammer price exceeded the low estimate of $45mm considerably notching $58 million before fees.

20th Century Evening Sale:


Top Lot: "Les Flamants" by Henri 'Le Douanier' Rousseau - $43,535,000 after fees

Sale Estimates: $256.8 million to $331 million

Sale Total: $328,779,600

  • Within estimates, but just nearly touching the high. The Rousseau canvas was nearly beat out for the top lot by Picasso's "Nature morte à la  fenêtre" coming in $1.7mm below it. Nearly a third of lots came above estimates, which made up for the nearly 20% of bought-in lots that would have otherwise dragged down the total numbers.

A Century of Art: Fineberg Collection I:


Top Lot: "Untitled" by Christopher Wool - $10,070,000 after fees

Sale Estimates: $163 million to $235.4 million

Sale Total: $153,053,300

  • The sale definitely underperformed compared to estimates, but since everything was sold naked—without any guarantees or irrevocable bids—reserves were lowered to meet market demand. A paltry 9 out of 65 lots came above the high estimate; 37 fell below the low.


Contemporary Evening Sale:


Top Lot: "Banksquiat. Boy and  Dog in Stop and Search" by Banksy - $9,724,500 after fees

Sale Estimates: $63.2 million to $90 million

Sale Total: $69,543,100

  • 43% of lots within estimates made for a run of the mill sale at Phillips. A few lots had some intense phone bidding, Noah Davis' 'Untitled' sold for $990,600 against a low estimate of $100,000. And a Henry Taylor canvas found $584,200 against a low estimate of $80,000.

Collectible Happenings

  • Seth Klarman's 1991 investment book "Margin of Safety," initially a commercial flop, has turned into a coveted collectors' item, with unsigned copies selling for around $2,000 and a signed copy offered for as high as $12,500​​. The book's high demand and scarcity have led to counterfeits and libraries taking extra precautions to prevent theft. WSJ
  • Bloomberg writer James Tarmy dives into the collectibles market to better understand if it is the right time to invest in classic cars, wine sports memorabilia, watches, and handbags. Altan Insights fans will be pleased to see our research cited. BLOOMBERG
A recap of the 2022 market by alternative-asset investment researcher Altan Insights Inc. showed the volume of six-figure sales fell 17% from the previous year in the fourth quarter, and fractional sports card and sports memorabilia finished 2022 down 35.9% and 26.7%, respectively. In a later report, Altan suggested 2023 could be a year when “trophy assets” continue to do well, though there may be “a reset lower for assets that no longer seem exceedingly rare or desirable.”

  • A pair of game-worn sneakers from LeBron James's rookie NBA season in 2003, specifically from his second game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, sold at auction for $222,000, surpassing the previous record of $156,000 for a pair of his game-worn shoes sold in 2021. The shoes, called "one of the most important artifacts of 21st-century sports" by the Heritage Auctions catalog, reflect the high demand for memorabilia related to James, the NBA's all-time leading scorer. SI
  • The NFLPA has announced the NFLPA Rookie Premiere Class of 2023, consisting of 45 rookies from the 2023 NFL Draft who will participate in a live action and studio shoot to sign thousands of football cards for various Panini brands. These cards will be featured prominently in trading card releases throughout the upcoming season. SPORTS COLLECTORS DAILY
  • Whiskyvest and Vinovest merge. Vinovest will now offer wine and whiskey as opposed to offering them separately before. VINOVEST
  • Sotheby's sells the "Codex Sassoon" for $38.1 million against an estimate of $30-$50 million. It is the world's earliest and most complete known Hebrew bible. SOTHEBY'S
  • Senators Sherrod Brown and Bill Cassidy have introduced the Red Tape Reduction Act, a bipartisan bill that challenges the provision in the American Rescue Plan Act requiring online sellers to report transactions over $600 to the IRS. The bill aims to raise the reporting threshold to $10,000, reducing the burden on casual sellers and small businesses and minimizing excessive paperwork. SPORTS COLLECTORS DAILY

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