Sotheby’s Auction Totals More Than $200 Million – Thanks to Picasso

Though Sotheby’s didn’t exactly hit their estimated mark at their early spring auction, the grand total following the 71-lot Impressionist sale in early March was an eyebrow raiser, especially when you consider the posthumous painter the gallery had to thank for the high-end numbers. Including buyer’s premiums, the Sotheby’s auction house cleared $219 million at the May 7 sale and according to Galleryist, that figure suggests that the company will survive its heated cost-cutting war with Dan Loeb, one of the house’s newest investors..

A disappointing amount of lots failed to sell – only 50 sold, leaving 21 behind – but it was the 1932 Picasso relic, Le Sauvetage, that had signs flying this way and that, with a final winner paying $28 million to claim the prize after more than 13 minutes of bidding. But the disappointing sale, aside from the Picasso piece, is indicative of a much larger problem taking shape at Sotheby’s.

Many have come forward and criticized the house of packing its “high-profile evening auctions in an attempt to add a sheen to subpar material” and the best example of that was, in fact, the Picasso chess piece. The painting, sold in lot 24, took place just an hour into the sale. After it sold, the room essentially cleared out. To add insult to injury, 22 of the 50 sold lots were auctioned off at less than $3 million – and though the house saw success with Le Sauventage, three other Picasso originals failed on the platform.

When Galleryist spoke with David Nash, a dealer, he said he wasn’t surprised at the disparity among the Picasso works of art – or, in fact, any of the pieces included in the 71-lot sale. “They tried to compare it to this and this. But it isn’t in the same league at all.”

Even though Nash made the case for comparing apples to oranges quite plain, you have to wonder whether or not the New York-based establishment is in trouble – or just wading through a rough patch.

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