Going, Going, Gone, Ouch! Sotheby’s Auction Falls Miserably Short of Expectations

Chilling news out of the art world today, with Bloomberg reporting that last night’s auction at Sotheby’s—a multiple-owner show of works by contemporary artists including Ed Ruscha, John Currin, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg—resulted in sales of only 68 percent of its offerings.

And while Sotheby’s had estimated around $202.3 million in sales for the evening, the auction only managed to pull in $125.1 million. Witnesses to the carnage included billionaire Eli Broad, whose purchases topped $8 million (“It’s a half price sale,” he observed) and actor Steve Martin. Of course, this wasn’t exactly a shock, as last week’s main Impressionist sale sold only 64 percent of its lots.

As we mentioned last week, people are bracing themselves for the second round, this time at Christie’s, where thoughoughly disgraced Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld Jr.‘s collection of drawings, which includes heavy-hitting pieces by Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and Barnett Newman and is valued at around $20 million, will be the main attraction. Also on the roster is Lars Ulrich’s Jean-Michel Basquiat painting Untitled (Boxer), which the Metallica drummer consigned one week prior to the closing of the catalog. Though the piece is valued at $12 to $16 million dollars (Mr. Ulrich purchased it in 1999 for a few million), it looks as though Mr. Ulrich—who was confident enough in the work’s appeal to forgo a guarantee from the auction house—might have to keep touring. Not Mr. Fuld, though–in a move that looks brilliant in hindsight, he got a $20 million guarantee for his collection.

Going, Going, Gone, Ouch! Sotheby’s Auction Falls Miserably Short of Expectations