Auction Results: Photography in the New York Contemporary Art Sales, March 2009

Last week saw the first round of Contemporary Art sales in New York, featuring generally lower priced work. (The main event for Contemporary Art in New York will be in mid-May.) As a reminder, we are only interested in the photography buried in these sales, and so our results do not include any other art that was on offer. Overall, it was a pretty dispiriting showing across the board: all three houses had buy-in rates above 40% for photography and none of them collected proceeds equal to their total low estimates for those lots. The statistics are below (all results include the buyer’s premium):

Phillips De Pury
Under the Influence, March 9
Preview post here

Total Photo Lots: 44
Pre Sale Low Total Estimate: $470000
Pre Sale High Total Estimate: $682000

Total Lots Sold: 25
Total Lots Bought In: 19
Buy In %: 43.18%
Total Sale Proceeds: $307875

Here is the breakdown (using the Low, Mid, and High definitions from the preview post):

Low Total Lots: 24
Low Sold: 15
Low Bought In: 9
Buy In %: 37.50%
Total Low Estimate: $142000
Total Low Sold: $82625

Mid Total Lots: 18
Mid Sold: 9
Mid Bought In: 9
Buy In %: 50.00%
Total Mid Estimate: $340000
Total Mid Sold: $169000

High Total Lots: 2
High Sold: 1
High Bought In: 1
Buy In %: 50.00%
Total High Estimate: $200000
Total High Sold: $56250

76.00% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range. There were two surprises (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate): Vanessa Beecroft’s VB29.014.VB.VST, 1997, at $$21250 and Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 5: The Menagerie of the Queen of Chain, 1996, at $32500. Complete lot by lot results can be found here.

Sotheby’s
Contemporary Art, New York, March 10
Preview post here

Total Lots: 10
Pre Sale Low Total Estimate: $126000
Pre Sale High Total Estimate: $180000

Total Lots Sold: 5
Total Lots Bought In: 5
Buy In %: 50.00%
Total Sale Proceeds: $81875

Here is the breakdown (using the Low, Mid, and High definitions from the preview post):

Low Total Lots: 4
Low Sold: 2
Low Bought In: 2
Buy In %: 50.00%
Total Low Estimate: $30000
Total Low Sold: $26875

Mid Total Lots: 6
Mid Sold: 3
Mid Bought In: 3
Buy In %: 50.00%
Total Mid Estimate: $150000
Total Mid Sold: $55000

High Total Lots: 0
High Sold: NA
High Bought In: NA
Buy In %: NA
Total High Estimate: NA
Total High Sold: NA

80.00% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range. There was only one surprise (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate) in this sale: Anselm Kiefer’s Des Malers Atelier, 1983, at $20000. Complete lot by lot results can be found here.

Christie’s
First Open Post-War and Contemporary Art, New York, March 11
Preview post here

Total Lots: 24
Pre Sale Low Total Estimate: $455000
Pre Sale High Total Estimate: $646000

Total Lots Sold: 14
Total Lots Bought In: 10
Buy In %: 41.67%
Total Sale Proceeds: $275875

Here is the breakdown (using the Low, Mid, and High definitions from the preview post):

Low Total Lots: 3
Low Sold: 3
Low Bought In: 0
Buy In %: 00.00%
Total Low Estimate: $20000
Total Low Sold: $22125

Mid Total Lots: 19
Mid Sold: 10
Mid Bought In: 9
Buy In %: 47.37%
Total Mid Estimate: $496000
Total Mid Sold: $223750

High Total Lots: 2
High Sold: 1
High Bought In: 1
Buy In %: 50.00%
Total High Estimate: $130000
Total High Sold: $30000

71.43% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range. There were no surprises (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate) in this sale. Complete lot by lot results can be found here.

So overall, Phillips was the winner in Total Photography Proceeds this round, but it was a pretty hollow victory, at just over $300K all in. None of the houses brought in much premium on their photography offerings and there weren’t many upside surprises. Unfortunately for the auction houses, absent some unexpected rebound in the wider economy, these results are likely a pretty decent proxy for the kind of broad activity we will see later this month in the larger specialized Photography sales.

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Read more about: Christie's, Phillips ~ 450 Park, Sotheby's

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