By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results From Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale, November 2023

The sale also marked the end of an era as veteran auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen's final evening auction.

Jussi Pylkkänen selling the top lot of Christie's 20th Century evening sale, Monet's, Le bassin aux nymphéas for $74 million.

Christie’s packed its evening sale of 20th Century art on November 9 with blue-chip fare from several private collections, proffering a contrast to the seasons dominated by a single blockbuster name—Rockefeller, for instance, or that of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen last year.

The marathon-like sale took $640.8 million (with fees), buoyed by the collections of late entertainment industry icons such as record executive Jerry Moss (the “M” in A&M records) and Hollywood movie director Ivan Reitman, as well as a painting formerly owned by David Geffen.

The 65-lot sale was heavily guaranteed, with a mix of direct guarantees and mostly those backed by third parties. Still, there was lively competitive bidding—or the appearance thereof—throughout the two-and-a-half hour auction.

In a sign of how much wheeling and dealing takes place in the hours leading up to the sale, roughly a half dozen new third-party guarantees were announced at the start of the sale, in addition to the roughly 19 others already confirmed earlier in the day. Midway through the auction, after a brief pause, yet another lot was announced as under a third-party guarantee before the bidding was opened.

The sale also marked the end of an era, as veteran auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen, who has been with Christie’s for 38 years, presided over his final sale before he moves on to a new career as a private advisor. Pylkkänen, who handled the first half of the sale in a buoyant light-hearted mood, thanked the audience numerous times for what he described as “amazing adventures,” over the years and left the rostrum to a standing ovation after presiding over the sale of the top lot of the night, Claude Monet’s Le basin aux nympheas, for a premium-inclusive $74 million.

Read on for our breakdown of the stats behind the spin.

Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale:

· Total Sales After Fees: $640.8 million 

· Hammer Total: $543.5 million

· Top Seller: Claude Monet’s Le basin aux nymphéas hammered for $64 million or $74 million with premium as compared with a presale expectation in the range of $65 million.

· Lots Sold (Including Guaranteed Lots): 61

· Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 65

· Lots Withdrawn Presale: 2

· Lots Bought In: 2

· Sell-through Rate Before Withdrawals: 94 percent

· Sell-through Rate After Withdrawals: 97 percent

· Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: $531 million

· Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: + $12.5 million

· Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: $8 million

· Lots Guaranteed: 31

· Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: $376.5 million (70.9 percent of total presale low estimate)

· Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: $335.9 (63 percent of total presale low estimate)

· Total Low Estimate of House Guaranteed Lots: $40.6 million (8 percent of total presale low estimate)

· Lots with Third-Party Guarantees: 25

· Lots With House Guarantees: 6 (originally 7 but one was withdrawn)

· Quote of the Night: Jussi Pylkkänen “Good evening and welcome to Rockefeller Center for what will be my last auction.”

· Parting Shot: More than once, Adrien Meyer, who helmed the second half of the sale, made it clear he was cognizant of how long it was running. At one point he nudged a specialist whose phone client was taking a long time to make a decision: “People have dinner plans.”

· Bonus: When former Christie’s executive-turned-private dealer Amy Cappellazzo, seated in the auction room, was trying to make a decision about whether to bid again, Meyer suggested a lower than normal increment would be okay, and joked: “Because it’s you and it’s late?” She did not bid again.

Next Sale Up: Sotheby’s Modern Evening Sale on Monday November 13.

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

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