By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results From Sotheby’s Modern Art Evening Sale, November 2023

Get the stats behind the spin.

Sotheby's Modern Evening auction in New York on November 13, 2023. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

It was a mixed night at Sotheby’s Modern art evening auction. On the one hand, bidding was consistently active and at times intense, from both the room and those bidding on the phone. It wasn’t until late in the roughly 90-minute sale that a buy-in or unsold lot occurred.

On the other hand, this may have been the result of careful choreography in the hours leading up to the sale. A total of eight lots out of 41 were withdrawn, which amounted to nearly 20 percent of the original size of the saleand a likely sign of market jitters. As a result of the withdrawals, the low presale estimate dropped to $179.4 million, roughly $20 million lower than the presale low-end range of overall expectations.

A new record was set for a Mark Rothko work on paper, when intense demand for a beautiful green-and-blue colorblock work from 1968 more than doubled the high estimate of $10 million, including premiums, to hammer down at $20 million ($23.9 million after fees). On the other hand, bidding for the expected star lot, Picasso’s Compotier et guitare (1932), which was guaranteed and had an unpublished estimate that Artnet News was told was “in the region of $25 million,” felt much thinner. Bidding opened at $18.5 million and the hammer fell soon after at $21 million ($23.5 million with fees) after a few extremely restrained bids.


Pablo Picasso, Compotier et guitare (1932). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Read on for the telling numbers of the night.

Sotheby’s Modern Art Evening sale:

· Total Sales After Fees: $223.4 million

· Lots Sold (Including Guaranteed Lots): 31

· Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 41

· Lots Withdrawn Presale: 8

· Lots Bought In: 2

· Sell-through Rate Counting Withdrawals: 74 percent

· Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 93.9 percent

· Hammer Total: $190.4 million

· Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: $199.2 million

· Hammer Total vs. (Revised) Presale Low Estimate: +$11 million

· Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: $19.8 million

· Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: $107.7 million (60 percent of total presale low estimate)

· Lots With House Guarantees: 2

· Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: $101.7 million (56 percent of total presale low estimate)

· Lots with Third-Party Guarantees: 13

· Lots Guaranteed: 15

· Top Seller: Claude Monet, Peupliers au bord de l’Epte, temps couvert (1891)

· Quote of the Night: “You’re just smiling at me,” auctioneer Michael Macauley politely said, while waiting on a bid signal from a specialist on the phone with a client as bidding was approaching the final $13 million mark on a major Marc Chagall painting, Au-dessus de la ville (1924).

Next Sale Up: Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on Tuesday November 14.

Check back throughout the week for our continuing coverage of this season’s sales slate.

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