Insights / Headlines

BY Andrew Goldstein on May 7, 2009
Pablo Picasso, "Mousquetaire à la pipe", 1968, Oil on canvas, 57 5/8 x 35 1/8 inches. Christie's New York Impressionist/Modern Art Sale Estimate: $12,000,000 - $18,000,000 ; Courtesy of Christie's New York

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So the first major test of New York's auction climate--this week's Impressionist and Modern sales at Christie's and Sotheby's--was a mixed bag, with little good news for the heath of the market.

Christie's had the best showing, with the sale of a $14.6 million Picasso (late period, naturally) boosting overall returns above the low estimate, but once-proud Sotheby's slumped with an evening that failed to move top lots. (Adding insult to injury, the S&P this week downgraded Sotheby's stock to junk status.) Though it's impossible to be sure, the sales--which featured teeny weeny catalogues--don't bode well for next week's market-making contemporary auctions.

In other news, some renegade art historians in Germany have accused Gauguin of lopping off Van Gogh's ear, while others feel the Dutch artist should keep the credit. Sarkozy has big plans for a museum district in Paris, while stateside the Met has reopened its spiffed-up American art wing and, in the Rust Belt, Lynn Zelevansky has been named director of Pittsburgh's influential Carnegie Museum of Art. But the best news of the week may be the enraptured reception of David Adjaye's design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Let's just hope the mortar matches the model.

Related news links:
"Market Gains Confidence at Christie's" [via Artinfo]
"Madoff Victim Sells Picasso for $14.6 Million at Christie’s" [via Bloomberg]
"Sotheby's $61.3 Million Sale Disappoints; Picasso Goes Unsold" [via the Wall Street Journal]
"Top Lots Flop at Sotheby's Imp/Mod Sale" [via Artinfo]
"Sotheby’s Corporate Credit Rating Cut to Junk by S&P" [via Bloomberg]
"Shrinking the Art of Selling Fine Art" [via the New York Times]
"Was Truth the Biggest Casualty in the Case of Vincent and His Severed Ear?" [via the Independent]
"Van Gogh Gouged by Gauguin? I Don't Believe It" [via the Guardian]
"Sarkozy Envisions Arts 'Hill'" [via]
"The Met Offers a New Look at Americana" [via the New York Times]
"New Director of Carnegie Museum" [via the New York Times]
"Tracing the Threads That Join America and Africa" [via the New York Times]

Van Gogh's 1888 self-portrait after his ear was cut off, according to the artist by his own hand. ; Via the Art Wolf

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