The Back Room: To Guarantee or Not to Guarantee

This week: what to expect as auction season descends, a different kind of Basquiat, and much more—all in a 6-minute read (1,748 words).

Claude Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas (ca 1917-1919). Image courtesy Christie's.

Every Friday, Artnet News Pro members get exclusive access to the Back Room, our lively recap funneling only the week’s must-know intel into a nimble read you’ll actually enjoy.

This week in the Back Room: what to expect as auction season descends, a different kind of Basquiat, and much more—all in a 6-minute read (1,748 words).

Top of the Market
Auction Anticipation


Pabo Picasso, Femme à la montre (Woman With a Watch) (1932). Courtesy Sotheby’s

It’s that wonderful time of year. As reliably as the leaves in Central Park begin to turn, the global art market has turned its gaze towards New York’s fall auctions, which many consider a bellwether for the market at large. But this year, perhaps more than other years in the recent past, collectors (and many dealers) are likely to be watching from the edges of their seats.

As Artnet News’s Eileen Kinsella distills in her semi-annual auction preview, it’s been a wild ride for the market the last 12 months. After the frenzy of 2022, which was boosted by pent up demand from the pandemic and culminated in the record-smashing sale of the Paul Allen collection last fall, even a healthy auction season would feel like a letdown.

Still, the cumulative estimate for the evening sales at the Big Three houses this season is $1.56 billion to $2.1 billion, a surprisingly slim 26 percent dip from the comparable range of $2.1 billion to $2.9 billion last year. How is the purportedly shaky art market seeing over $2 billion in blue-chip art hit the block, including some highly sought-after work that hasn’t been offered for sale for decades, you ask?

This spring, the long-anticipated correction finally landed. The flagging market was punctuated by tepid results in the Gerald Fineberg collection sale at Christie’s, tanked by a combination of overconfidence and financial engineering—or, for once, the lack thereof.

Still, as The Back Room has pointed out previously, the narrative that that day the market turned and was henceforth officially sagging is too simplistic. Yes, the hammer total for the three houses’ evening sales this spring fell $48.3 million below their collective low estimate but with some perspective this is still no tragic shortfall. All told, the dreaded correction could be framed as a fairly gentle landing following a period of exuberance.

Now, after rocky auctions in Asia and a mixed spate of sales in London, we’re headed into an auction season with a lot at stake and a lot on offer. Some cliff notes…

Sotheby’s holds the crown for the blockbuster offering of the season, after winning the collection of Emily Fisher Landau, estimated at $344.5 million to $430.1 million. The prize bumps Sotheby’s into first place for overall expectations, with an estimate of $789.4 million to $1.05 billion across its sales.

Christie’s offerings are slim by comparison but the house snagged the collections of film director Ivan Reitman and recording executive Jerry Moss, and they are bulking up its anticipated take. The house’s evening sales are estimated to pull in a not-too-shabby $630 million to $930 million. Among them, its 20th-century sale has the highest estimate of any individual auction this fall in New York, at $531 million to $757 million.

Phillips’ evening haul is estimated at $142.7 million to $200 million, exceeding last November’s expectation of $118.5 million to $165.3 million, which was already a standout season for the house. Bolstering the Phillips estimate this year is the Triton collection, led by a Fernand Leger estimated at $15 million to $20 million. The collection was assembled by Dutch shipping and oil magnate Willem Cordia and his wife, Marijke van der Laan, and is reportedly entirely guaranteed.

Trophy lots on offer include:

—Sotheby’s is offering the star lot of the season: Picasso’s Femme à la montre (1932), estimated “in excess of $120 million.”

—Christie’s is also shopping a notable Monet, Le bassin aux nymphéas (circa 1917-1919), with an estimate “in excess of $65 million.”

—Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two) (1982) is estimated at $40 million to $60 million, in Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale.

The Bottom Line

Even with plenty of blue-chip offerings next week, underlying concerns remain. This past spring saw an uptick in third-party and auction-house guarantees, according to the New York Times – but the returns on guarantees on average dropped to 11 percent from 22 percent year-over-year last year, according to ArtTactic data. Lower returns should indicate lower risk, but they could also make third parties less keen to guarantee works in a higher interest rate environment where they can find juicy yields in safer financial products. And, if the Fineberg sale is any indicator, guarantees are more crucial to the bottom line than ever.

Sit tight.

Read More

Paint Drippings

Wet Paint was out sick this week, but here’s what else made a mark around the industry since last Friday morning…

Art Fairs

  • South Korean collector JaeMyung Noh is launching a new fair, ART OnO, next April in Seoul’s Gangnam district. With booth fees 40 percent lower than other fairs in South Korea and an emphasis on collaborations, around 60 international galleries including Peres Projects, This Weekend Room, and Nicholas Krupp have already signed on. (Artnet News)
  • Mexico City’s Zona Maco art fair is teaming up with Austrian-based Philanthropic Erarta Foundation for a new prize voted on by the public and awarded to the “Highlight of the Show.” A $100,000 purse, one of the largest financial prizes for an art fair, will be shared between the artist and presenting gallery, awarded on the final day of the fair’s run, February 11, 2024. (Press release)

Auction Houses

  • A 18th-century bust by the artist Edmé Bouchardon, who served as the official sculptor to King Louis XV, could fetch up to $3 million at Sotheby’s. The work was purchased by the Invergordon Town Council in 1930 for just £5, and thought lost until it was discovered languishing in a shed. (Artnet News)
  • Hindman’s inaugural New York sales achieved a combined total of $5.3 million. Two artists’ records were set, for photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier and painter Francis Speight. (Press release)


  • Berlin-based artist Raphaela Vogel joins Petzel Gallery, and her inaugural show will take place in January at the gallery’s Chelsea outpost. She will continue to be represented by BQ in Berlin, Galerie Gregor Staiger in Zurich, and Meyer Kainer in ViennaAmerican artist Sean Landers joins the roster at Timothy Taylor, which will mount an exhibition of his work in Spring 2024; he will continue to be represented by Petzel in New York. And British sculptor and painter Maggi Hambling is now represented by Pearl Lam Galleries in Asia; her first show at the gallery will take place at the Hong Kong location next year. (Press releases)
  • London’s Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery opened its first permanent location in the U.S. in West Palm Beach, Fla., with an inaugural exhibition of work by Sara Berman. (Artsy)

Institutions & Biennials

  • Tupinambá artist and activist Glicéria Tupinambá will be the first Indigenous artist to represent Brazil solo at the Venice Biennale in 2024. The pavilion will be renamed the Hãhãwpuá Pavilion for Tupinambá’s presentation, titled “Ka’a Pûera: we are walking birds.” (Press release)
  • The 24th edition of the Biennale of Sydney released the artist list, locations, and programming for the next edition, slated to run from March 9 to June 10, 2024. Titled “Ten Thousand Suns,” it will be led by artistic directors Cosmin Costinaș and Inti Guerrero and will feature 88 artists and collectives from 47 countries. (Press release)
  • The Frick Collection yesterday announced it is embarking on the public phase of its capital campaign, which has already raised $242 million in its “quiet” phase, to renovate its buildings. (Press release)

Tech and Legal News

  • A former employee of MoMA has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the institution, alleging he was unjustly fired for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine that his doctor advised against due to a medical condition. Philip Parente is seeking punitive and compensatory damages including damages for back-pay and emotional and mental distress. (Artnet News)
  • Art dealer Serop Simonian has been arrested for allegedly leading an illegal trafficking ring implicating institutions like the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Simonian has been extradited from Hamburg to Paris and is currently in pre-trial detention. (Artnet News)
  • Legality of fractional ownership of Banksy work is disputed. (The Art Newspaper)

“It’s mind-blowingly better than anything [Anish] Kapoor is playing with.”

Stuart Semple, on “black 4.0,” his latest black—the blackest?—and most recent salvo in the Color Wars, to Artnet News.

Work of the Week
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Beat Bop

Jean-Michel Basquiat, <i>Beat Bop. </i>Courtesy of Phillips.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Beat Bop. Courtesy of Phillips.

This week’s Back Room Work of the Week, or we should say Works plural, proves that not that every Basquiat has to be a seven- or eight-figure blockbuster. As part of Phillips’ newly introduced Dropshop direct sales platform, the auction house collaborated with the Basquiat estate. Yesterday (November 2) at 10am, Phillips released 39 original vinyls of Basquiat’s Hip Hop record, Beat Bop, (1983) with a price tag of $4,000 each. They sold out in one minute flat, according to a representative for the auction house.

The song ranked Number 79 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs in 2017. And a few years ago, a copy sold at auction for $126,000. Following the Dropshop launch, number one of the edition will be offered in an online auction, coupled with a private tour of the King Pleasure exhibition with Basquiat’s family members. All of  of the proceeds of the online auction will benefit the nonprofit, A Place Called Home, supporting arts education for youth in South Los Angeles.

—Eileen Kinsella

Thank you for joining us for The Back Room.
See you next Friday.

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