German Auction House Ketterer Kunst’s Weekend Art Sales Achieved a Handsome Hammer Total of $43 Million

But the lukewarm sell-through rates across all five sales indicated that the market is volatile.

Wassily Kandinsky, Murnau (1908). Courtesy of Ketterer Kunst.

Munich-based auction house Ketterer Kunst concluded what it claimed to be the biggest auction of the year in Germany, raking in a total of €39.9 million ($43 million) after fees across five art sales over the weekend. The house also said that the hammer total of €31.6 million ($34 million) was the highest it has achieved this year.

While the news might paint a rosy picture of Germany’s auction market, especially amid the International Monetary Fund’s forecast that the country will overtake Japan as the world’s third largest economy this year, the reality is not as straight-forward.

Although the house managed to sell four lots above the €1 million ($1.1 million) mark at its evening sale on Friday (December 8), the hammer total of €22.6 million ($24 million) only surpassed the sale’s €20.3 million low estimate by €2.3 million. The sale’s top lot, Wassily Kandinsky’s 1908 painting Murnau, sold for €3.9 million ($4.1 million) including fees, which was well above the presale estimates. However, a sell-through rate of 72 percent and no withdrawals meant 21 lots of the 75 lots on offer did not find buyers.

Sales on Saturday (December 9), yielded mixed results. Hammer totals for two of the sales—A Collectors Modern Day Sale and one focused on 19th Century art—were slightly above the presale low estimates, with sell-through rates at 76 percent and 71 percent respectively. The hammer totals for the Contemporary Art Day Sale and the Modern Art Day Sale, however, fell short of the presale expectations, with sell-through rates at 64 percent and 51 percent respectively.

While the local market observers suggested that there was uncertainty in the air at the auction house on Friday evening, as the sales were a test in a volatile market, Ketterer Kunst maintained the results indicated a positive outlook for the country’s auction market, particularly at the top end.

The house cited the sale of lots by international names that rarely appear at auction in Germany. For example, Willem de Kooning’s 1977 work Garden Landscape sold for €241,300 ($253,365) after fees, well above the presale estimate of €90,000 ($94,500), and Antony Gormley’s sculpture Big Witness (2013), sold for €736,600 ($773,430) after fees against a presale estimate of €400,000 ($420,000).

“Strategically, we focus on quality, internationality and service,” Robert Ketterer, auctioneer and owner of the auction house, said in a statement. “The demand for selected quality and desirable rarities remains very high in Germany and abroad. Germany is becoming increasingly important as a location for auctions. This has enabled us to offer iconic works that would have gone to London or New York a few years ago.”

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