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​A historic month of November

[21 Nov 2017]

Over the last ten years, the high-end art market has experienced a number of changes and shifts: genres most in demand… preferred artistic medium… most sought-after periods. However, the sale of the masterpiece considered the “last” Leonardo da Vinci still in private hands represents a genuine quantum shift in the history of the art market

November 15, 2017 marks a quantum shift for the art auction market

The $450.3 million result obtained for LEONARDO DA VINCI’s Salvator Mundi is an absolute record in the art auction market’s long history, and more than doubles its previous world record.

It is also the first time private collectors (whose nationalities have not yet been disclosed) participated in an auction with bids rising in steps of 20 and 30 million dollars!

Exhibited in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York during the month before its sale last Wednesday on 15 November 2017, the masterpiece was estimated at “around” $100 million. On the day, the bidding started at $70 million and finished at $400 million after 19 minutes of extreme tension. Including buyers fees and various taxes, the acquirer ended up paying $450.312 million.

Invited by RTL to comment on the result, Thierry Ehrmann, CEO of Artprice – world leader in art market information – said “This result is perfectly logical… in the 2000s we crossed the 100 million dollar threshold in Old Masters, Modern Art and Contemporary Art. Last year a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat fetched 110 million dollars.

Historic, this absolute record dwarfs the previous Old Masters auction record of $76.7 million in 2002 for Peter Paul Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents and more than doubles the previous all-time all-periods art auction world record of $179.3 million for Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) sold in May 2015 at Christie’s.

By demolishing all previous auction records Salvator Mundi proves that the high-end art market’s appetite for Old Masters is still perfectly healthy (the works on offer were mostly Modern, Postwar and Contemporary). It also confirmed that a work’s prestige accounts for the bulk of its price. In this case, the absolute prestige associated with Leonardo da Vinci was coupled with an absolute criterion of rarity, since Salvator Mundi was the last work by the artist still in private hands, of the twenty finished paintings by the Master.

The vendor of the da Vinci masterpiece, the Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev, no doubt feels reassured about the quality of the acquisition he made from art dealer Yves Bouvier for the controversial price of $127.5 million. Ultimately, competition among the world’s most powerful bidders at one of the world’s most prestigious art auctioneers proves that Mr. Rybolovlev was holding one of the most important artworks in the world.

With a total sale turnover of $785.9 million (incl. fees) versus a pre-sale low estimate of $410 million, Christie’s art sale of 15 November 2017 stands out as one of the most lucrative auctions in history, thanks essentially to Salvator Mundi. Although collectors with the financial capacity to reach such price levels may be counted on one hand, bidders of no less than 34 nationalities registered to participate in the Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale.

Christie’s international mobilization for the sale also contributed to remarkable results for a number of other artists including Franz Kline, Peter Doig, Louise Bourgeois, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko. All considered major artists of the Post-War & Contemporary era, the results ranged from 10 to 60.8 million dollars. Not surprisingly, Andy Warhol generated the highest result among these artists, with his largest work ever submitted to auction. Sixty Last Supper (1986), measuring approximately 3 x 10 meters and showing 60 variations of da Vinci’s famous Last Supper, fetched $60.875 million.

The day after this historic session, it was Sothebys turn to hold a prestige Contemporary Art sale. With no da Vinci works in the catalogue, it still managed to generate a handsome total of $310.28 million with two works fetching more than 30 million each: a triptych by Francis BACON sold for the excellent price $38.6 million, while a large portrait of Mao by Andy WARHOL fetched $32.4 million within its estimate.

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