HomeThe MarketArt auction headlines bode well for upcoming collector car sales

Art auction headlines bode well for upcoming collector car sales


The scene at Sotheby's recent Modernist art auction | Sotheby's photos
The scene at Sotheby’s recent Modernist art auction | Sotheby’s photos

Recent headlines that should be of interest to the collector car community:

Monet’s ‘Grainstack’ Sets Record With $81.4 Million at Auction
Strong Sales at Sotheby’s Contemporary Auction Despite Postelection Jitters
Sotheby’s Stages Robust $276 Million Contemporary Art Sale to Close Out Auction Week
A Richter, Owned by Clapton, Fetches $22 Million at Christie’s
Edvard Munch Leads Sotheby’s $157.7 Million Impressionist Sale

Most of those headlines are from The New York Times as it covered the recent auctions in its hometown by Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips of Impressionist, Modern and contemporary art, as well as Sotheby’s London-based sale of much of the art collection of the late David Bowie.

On the eve of those sales, Sotheby’s announced a $54.5 million third-quarter loss and that yet another key executive, its chairman of contemporary art, had left the auction house. Even before that breaking news, there was much fretting, just short of wailing and the gnashing of teeth, about what impact Brexit and the U.S. presidential election results might have on the big art auctions.

Impressionist art selling well as well
Impressionist art selling well as well

Apparently, not much, at least not in a negative way. Prices were strong overall — bidding was characterized as “thoughtful” — and sell-through rates were downright astronomical.

“This is the sort of soft landing we wished for,” one art gallery owner told the newspaper. “There’s nothing frothy about the market. It’s serious and measured. It’s better like this.”

Or as artnet News put it, the sales “testified to a resilient market,” which one New York dealer told the website, “testified to an incredibly confident market.”

Resilient. Confident. Words which bode well, it seems, for the 2017 collector car auction calendar that starts in little more than a month in Florida (Mecum at Kissimmee), in Arizona (more than half a dozen overlapping sales in Phoenix and Scottsdale) and in Nevada (with two major vintage motorcycle auctions in Las Vegas).

Just as the January automobile auctions set the tone for the coming year, the big November art auctions provide vitals on the eagerness, or at least the willingness, of those who can afford to spend $81 million on a piece of art or $8 million on a collector car.

Nonetheless, there’s another factor to consider as we head into the new year: Setting realistic reserve prices will be crucial to hearing “Sold!” as the hammers fall next month. Nothing cools bidders’ enthusiasm like uncompromising consignors who think their car is worth more than the marketplace will bear.siglarry

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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