Magazine article Art Business News

'Warm-Ups' Jump Start Auctions

Magazine article Art Business News

'Warm-Ups' Jump Start Auctions

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- The stars of the rock world have warm-up bands, so why can't the stars of the art world have warm-up auctions? In the print realm, the headline autumn auctions are generally held in November and December. Traditionally, the stages are dark for most of the season until then. This year, though, two up-and-coming sales burst onto the scene. Christie's in New York held a sale from Sept. 28-29, which included almost 650 lots, and, just days before, Sotheby's in London held a sale, which included 416 lots.

The experts at Christie's, perhaps fearing an opening-night debacle, tread the boards rather cautiously. Although they offered a staggering number of pieces, the lion's share were, (by their standards, at least), inexpensive. Almost all had been expected to fetch $2,500 or less, and some even bore low estimates in the mid hundreds of dollars. The tactic seemed to have paid off. The average piece fetched $3,570, and 82 percent of the works on offer found buyers. Two pieces, one by Warhol and another by Chagall, even sold for four to five times their low estimates.

Why was it a success? By offering a massive quantity of relatively affordable works, they may have appealed to two key market segments. First, young collectors must have been drawn to the vast array of affordable works by big-name artists. There were early prints by Rembrandt and Durer, modern pieces by Picasso and Chagall and contemporary works by Hockney and Warhol, among others. The 175 artists whose prints appeared in the sale represented a who's who of the art world; it was an amazing opportunity to "jump start" a collection.

Second, savvy gallery owners also must have leapt at the chance to safely and inexpensively add household names to their inventories. When buying from lesser auction houses or privates, dealers generally receive few guarantees as regards to authenticity, provenance, etc. …

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