It’s Raining Monet at the New York Auctions This Season—Will Demand Meet the Generous Supply?
We took to artnet's price database to investigate.
A selection of stellar Monets could bring in as much as $305 million at auction this season in New York. Yep—that’s a lot of Monet. (Sorry.)
The Impressionist’s view of sunset over London’s parliament is being offered on May 12 at Christie’s as part of the collection of storied philanthropist Anne Bass (estimate: $40 million to $60 million) along with two other prime canvases. Christie’s is also including three Monets in its 20th century evening sale, with a combined estimate of $37 million to $53 million.
After a marketing tour de force that saw Sotheby’s bring Monet’s Le Grand Canal et Santa Maria della Salute to Venice during the vernissage of the Biennale, the house will offer the work at its Modern evening sale on May 17 with an unpublished estimate in excess of $50 million. (Two other Monets carrying a combined $25 million-to-$37 million estimate will also hit the block.)
Interestingly, there has been no sign of Les Demoiselles de Giverny, reportedly consigned by Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder, which was yanked at the 11th hour from Sotheby’s London sale in March, where it had been estimated to fetch between £15 million and £20 million. The house said at the time that it would offer the work during the marquee sales in New York instead—but ultimately decided to further push back the sale until a quieter moment. (Sotheby’s is contracted to sell the piece either privately or publicly at any time in 2022.)
The delay may have been a sensible move. At a time when top-flight Monets are hitting the market in droves, we jumped into the artnet price database to see what we could find out about the appetite for the artist’s work.
Auction Record: $110.7 million, achieved at Sotheby’s New York in May 2019
Monet’s Performance in 2021
Lots sold: 23
Bought in: 3
Sell-through rate: 88.5 percent
Average sale price: $13.3 million
Mean estimate: $4 million
Total sales: $305.7 million
Top painting price: $70.4 million
Lowest painting price: $903,300
Lowest overall price: $5,856, for a signed charcoal sketch of a moonlit harbor scene.
- Mo Monet, No Problems. Like Picasso, Monet was prolific. Works from across his career come to market on a regular basis, which drives and feeds global appetite. While it may be less exceptional to see a Monet on the block than a Van Gogh, that makes the Impressionist more approachable for new collectors, as well as for established collectors looking to buy in depth.
- Strong Demand. There is a depth of demand to meet the plentiful supply of Monet. Last year, works by the artist were responsible for three of the top 10 prices achieved in the Impressionist and Modern category. As of this writing, $52.8 million worth of Monets moved on the market in 2022. And in the past 12 months, 8,811 users looked him up in the artnet price database. With a recognizable style and brand name, the artist is sought after on all continents, with particularly strong interest coming from Asia, notably Japan, and increasingly, Hong Kong and mainland China.
- Buyers Are Serious for Series. The most in-demand works are his “series” paintings, among them the water lilies, haystacks, and poplars. These images benefit from their multiplicity—iterations can be found in the world’s major museums, making them attractive to buyers. The water lilies are the most desirable of the three. Traditionally, collectors have favored the smaller early square-format lilies from 1905–7—but later examples, particularly the more abstract, large-scale studies, have gained steam recently.
- Market Opportunity. Over the past few decades, interest in the later works has grown, making the market for early paintings a bit thinner. There are deals to be made for works from the 1860s and 1870s, and even later works from the 1880s or 1890s, that have been stamped rather than signed, as there remains some resistance to them. (Notably, even some of the highly sought after later water lily paintings are stamped, because they were unsold during Monet’s lifetime and never left his studio.)
- Pandemic Jitters. Total sales of Monet peaked in 2018, when work by the artist netted $356.8 million at auction. But supply plummeted during the pandemic amid consignment jitters, with just $21.5 million worth of work by the artist being traded in 2020 (a whopping 92.8 percent decrease from 2019). As the market has regained confidence, Monet sales bounced back to $305.7 million in 2021. The flood of singular examples this season bodes well for further recovery.
There has been something of a flood of Monets to market since lockdowns lifted, which might have played a role in the artist’s lukewarm performance in London in March (while Dan Snyder’s Les Demoiselles de Giverny was withdrawn, his four other Monets did not perform particularly well, with one bought in by Sotheby’s). The London results could alternatively be explained by overly strong estimates for mid-quality works, as well as the fact that the sales took place shortly after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. (It probably didn’t help that Russian bidders have historically fueled a fair amount of the competition for Monet.)
While there has been some mumbling about a lack of Asian bidding in the New York sales so far this week, and a dearth Asian buyers at the top could mean losing some of the froth for Monet, specialists are not overly concerned. There remains a strong American market for the artist, and—even absent Russia—a depth of European bidders to drive competition.
Particularly interesting to watch will be the 1907 square-format Nympheas painting coming up as part of the Bass Collection at Christie’s. While collectors have been more interested in the large, abstract “water lilies” from 1914 and 1918 of late, this representative example will be a telling test of the breadth and depth of Monet’s market. Observers are also keeping an eye on the “poplars” painting in the Bass sale—top examples from the series haven’t come on the market in more than a decade.
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