Overly high estimates at Sotheby’s



The Impressionist & Modern Art auction at Sotheby’s yesterday was not as successful as predicted. The atmosphere was not as festive as last year, following the sale of Picasso’s « Garçon à la Pipe ». In fact, the sale raised only USD 91 million, almost USD 100 million less than last year and USD 26 million below the combined low estimates.

The main reason for this discouraging outcome was the lack of interest collectors showed in the major works on offer. To illustrate this, the auction’s star lot, « Zwei Reiter und liegende Gestalt » by Wassily KANDINSKY had a high estimate of USD 25 million but was bought in at USD 11.25 million. The most expensive lot was « Les femmes d’Algers, version J », by Pablo PICASSO. The painting, estimated at USD 15-20 million, went under the hammer at USD 18 million (including fees).

Finally, 20 of the 65 lots up for auction were bought in.

Although the turnover generated at this auction is decent compared with 2003 figures, the no-sales ratios also proved that the market has limits and prices cannot soar indefinitely.