By the Numbers: Sotheby’s Mo Ostin and Modern Auctions, May 2023

Get the stats behind the spin.

René Magritte, L'Empire des lumières (1951). Courtesy of Sotheby's. With an estimate of $35 million to $55 million, it sold for $42.3 million. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s first night of marquee auctions in New York was a three-hour double-header on May 16. First up: 15 lots from the collection of Mo Ostin, a music industry executive who died last year. The group (as well as lower-value lots offered in a day sale) was shepherded to auction by Laura Paulson, Gagosian Art Advisory director. The estate passed up a guarantee, preferring to maximize profits through the enhanced hammer arrangement, i.e. sharing the auction house’s buyer’s premium. Shortly before the actual sale, four lots gained irrevocable bids. Just one lot failed to sell.

Below, the story by the numbers… 

Mo Ostin Collection  

  • Total Sales After Fees: $123.7 million
     
  • Lots Sold (Including Guaranteed Lots): 14
     
  • Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 15
     
  • Lots Withdrawn Presale: 0
     
  • Lots Bought In: 1
     
  • Sell-through Rate Counting Withdrawals: 93.3%
     
  • Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 93.3%
     
  • Hammer Total: $104.5 million
     
  • Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: $103.3 million
     
  • Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: +$1.2 million 
     
  • Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: $0
     
  • Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: $13 million (12.6 percent of total presale low estimate)
     
  • Lots With House Guarantees: 0
     
  • Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: $13 million (12.6 percent of total presale estimate)
     
  • Lots With Third-Party Guarantees: 4
     
  • Top Seller: René Magritte, L’Empire des lumières (1951), hammered at $36.5 million (or $42.3 million after fees)
Gustav Klimt, Insel im Attersee (ca. 1901–2). With an unpublished estimate, it sold for $53.2 million. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Gustav Klimt, Insel im Attersee (ca. 1901–2). With an unpublished estimate, it sold for $53.2 million. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Next came the regular evening auction of modern art, led by a landscape by Gustav Klimt, an Edward Hopper painting deaccessioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as, bizarrely, a 400-year-old painting by Peter Paul Rubens.

Here’s how the data shook out… 

Modern Evening Sale

  • Total Sales After Fees: $303.1 million
     
  • Lots sold (Including Guaranteed Lots): 40
     
  • Lots on Offer Before Withdrawals: 54
     
  • Lots Withdrawn Presale: 6
     
  • Lots Bought In: 8
     
  • Sell-through Rate Counting Withdrawals: 83 percent
     
  • Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 74.1 percent
     
  • Hammer Total: $258.1 million
     
  • Presale Low Estimate Before Withdrawals: $290.6 million
     
  • Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: -$32.5 million
     
  • Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: $18.5 million
     
  • Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: $207.9 million (71.5 percent of total presale low estimate)
     
  • Lots With House Guarantees: 21
     
  • Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: $172.4 million (59.3 percent of total presale low estimate)
     
  • Lots With Third-Party Guarantees: 17
     
  • Top Seller: Gustav Klimt, Insel im Attersee (ca. 1901–2), hammered at $46.5 million (with fees: $53.2 million)
  • Quote of the Night: “Let’s have some fun,” said Oliver Barker, the auctioneer of the sale, when two online bidders jumped into the fray for the sale’s final lot, an Edvard Munch landscape estimated at $2 million to $3 million. He’d been on the podium for three hours by that point and was eager to wrap things up. “Wherever you are in the ether! We don’t have to be here anymore.”
     

Next up: Phillips’s 20th-century and Evening sale and Christie’s Gerald Fineberg evening sale, May 17. Check back throughout the week for our continuing coverage of this spring’s sales slate.


Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In