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Art Market Monitor

By Marion Maneker


The Rockefeller Sale Comes in at $828m and counting: At the end of the week, the running total for the Rockefeller estate came in at $828m with the online sales continuing through Friday.


The $212k Picnic Basket: One of the crowd favorites in the Rockfeller personal effects was a very large picnic hamper that was being used as an end table in one of the family’s homes that turned out to contain an elaborate set of horn-handled cutlery and table settings, china and the world’s fanciest set of tupperware. The estimate for the item was $5-10k. It sold for $212,500....


Margin Mix Headwinds at Sotheby’s: The Financial Times seems to have garbled some financial reporting from Sotheby’s. In their weekly column on the art market, we read that the biggest lots like the Modigliani or the Malevich coming up next week are raising the specter of lower returns: “Such high-octane sales have raised the perennial issue of “margin mix headwind”, the rather uncatchy catchphrase among Wall Street’s investment community to describe how major works eat into profits at the auction houses.” A quick Google search of the term yields no results of that particular phrase which makes it hard to credit as “catchphrase.”


A quick look at the earnings call script from Sotheby’s Q1 report last week, which is referenced later in the item, reveals that Sotheby’s falling commission margin was a product not of an increase in very big deals but a calendar change in the Hong Kong auctions which brought the big Saturday night sale into Q1 for 2018:


“With respect to our Auction Commission Margin, for the quarter we reported 17.3% against 18.0% last year, and for the six month period, 17.1% against 18.0% last year. The inclusion of the big Hong Kong evening sales in this year’s numbers explains most of this change. We also saw a modest impact from our guarantee hedging strategy which has the effect of moderating our margin when expressed in percentage terms. However, this strategy is clearly important to our overall profit levels and it brings the additional benefit of offering more predictability to our earnings as well.” …


Seeing Reds: Robert Mnuchin got the idea for a show of Modern masterpieces around the theme of the color red while watching John Logan’s play about Mark Rothko and the painting of the Seagram’s murals that now reside in the Tate in London. The show includes a stunning red Rothko along with interesting and rarely seen museum properties by Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Ad Reinhardt Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, Glenn Ligon, Wade Guyton, Alexander Calder, John Chamberlain, Cady Noland and Kazuo Shiraga. …


Zao Wou-ki Makes $862,000 at Freeman’s in Philadelphia:  “a three-panel painting by Zao Wou-Ki, “15.04.80 – Triptych,” which sold for $862,000, after a prolonged and intense bidding war between two phone bidders. A small-scale work painted in the delicate colors of spring, the piece bears a dedication to the original, and only owners to date, Ambassador Arthur Hartman & Mrs. Donna Hartman.”

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