Sotheby’s Subdued After Record-Breaking Christie’s Picasso Sale

Buyers from across the world spent a total of $195,697,000 at Sotheby’s last night, in New York’s second high profile Impressionist and modern art sale in the last two days.

The auctioneer was Tobias Meyer, who had an unhurried approach. He’d freeze into a tableau vivant with each new bid. As for getting buyers to spend more money, his method was classic guilt trip. He pushed his eyebrows up, stared bidders in the face and asked, “Are we all done?”  Matisse’s Bouquet de Fleurs pour le Quatorze Juillet was the most expensive item of the night, selling for $28,642,500, $3 million over the estimate.

Many of the pieces sold for within estimate, and in the aftershock of Christie’s record-breaking $106 million Picasso sale the night before, it was noticeable that a handful of lesser works by the Spanish painter didn’t sell here.

“I think you’re undoubtedly looking to make comparisons between apples and oranges,” Bill Ruprecht, Sotheby’s president, said. As for that Picasso at the rival house, “Things that should have happened probably did.” Okay!

The company reported its quarterly earnings this morning, and it looks like the art market’s picking up: First quarter revenues were $102 million, up 87 percent from last year.

PREVIOUSLY: Alexandra Peers’ Q&A with Tobias Meyer.

Sotheby’s Subdued After Record-Breaking Christie’s Picasso Sale