Sotheby’s rolled out the red carpet for the auction of its former chairman’s collection on Wednesday in New York. The results were less glamorous as the evening’s $377 million tally barely passed the low target.
The stakes were high for Sotheby’s in the first sale culled from the collection of A. Alfred Taubman, who died in April. The auction house won the consignment from rival Christie’s by using its own money to provide the Taubman estate a record $500 million guarantee for more than 500 artworks. There are three additional stand-alone sales of the collection.
“I am comfortable with tonight’s results, and with more than 400 works still to be sold over the next several months, we are on track to cover most of the total guarantee," Sotheby’s Chief Executive Officer Tad Smith said in a statement after the sale, adding that both the hammer price and the buyers’ commission count toward the guarantee.
The event kicked off 10 days of semiannual bellwether auctions in New York. Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips expect to sell more than $2.1 billion of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art. It’s the first big test of the art trade since the stock market rout in August and September unnerved investors.
In Sotheby’s 77-lot auction, 69 sold, led by Amedeo Modigliani’s 1919 painting of a somber young woman in a black dress that fetched $42.8 million, exceeding its presale target of than $25 million. The event’s tally was near the low end of the estimate of $374.8 million to $526.5 million. The results include buyers’ commission charged by the auction house; the estimates don’t.
Sotheby’s shares fell 2.5 percent to $32.37 at 12:15 p.m. in New York trading Thursday and declined 23.2 percent in 2015 through Wednesday.
“Today’s stock price weakness is due to the auction results,” Kristine Koerber, a senior analyst at Barrington Research, said in an e-mail Thursday. “We were expecting stronger results, as were probably many others.”
Koerber, who has an outperform rating on Sotheby’s, said market watchers will be looking at the auction house’s results at its Impressionist and modern art sale Thursday evening as well as its contemporary art sale next week.
“Bidders appear to be more price-sensitive, even for high quality works of art,” she said.