'Prices have climbed back dramatically'

April 27 2011

Image of 'Prices have climbed back dramatically'

Picture: Christie's (detail)

Sotheby's and Christie's have been unveiling highlights of their forthcoming June modern art auctions. Picasso leads the way, and with estimates that seem to be climbing ever higher. From Bloomberg:

Owners of valuable 20th-century trophies have become more confident about selling after record prices last year. Picasso’s 1932 Marie-Therese painting “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” fetched $106.5 million -- the most for any artwork at auction -- at Christie’s, New York, in May 2010. A simpler portrait of her may fetch as much as $35 million at Sotheby’s New York in May.

“Prices have climbed back dramatically,” David Leiber, director of the New York-based gallery Sperone Westwater, said in an interview. “For the classic works, collectors like the spectacle of buying at auction.”

Can the frenzy possibly last? Perhaps, but as I said a while ago, if you want to be sure of banking a good price for your Picasso, I'd sell it now. On the other hand, if you have an Old Master, I'd keep it - is anything pre-1800 beginning to feel seriously under-valued?

The most engaging picture coming up in June (at Christie's) must be Picasso's Jeune Fille Endormie. It will surely beat its estimate of £9-12million - at least, I hope it does, for, thanks to an anonymous donor, the proceeds are going to medical research at the University of Sydney. 

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