With Klimt sale, has the art auction market found its legs?

Klimt’s Bauerngarten
Klimt’s Bauerngarten

It was a bad year for art auctions. “Anyone who says last year was a great year is lying,” Melanie Gerlis, an art market journalist, told the Gaurdian. “It seemed to pick up a bit in the last quarter with a strange sense of better the devil you know … the fear of Brexit and Trump proved more troublesome than the realities of both.”

But 2017 may just spell sunnier skies ahead after yesterday’s auction of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist works at Sotheby’s in London.

“Bauerngarten,” Gustav Klimt’s 1907 oil painting, sold for $59.3 million — a record auction price for a landscape by the artist, according to CNN. It is now the third most expensive artwork ever sold at auction in Europe. Alberto Giacometti’s “Walking Man” sold for $104.3m in 2010, and Peter Paul Rubens'”The Massacre of the Innocents,” sold for $76.7 million.

Pablo Picasso’s 1944 “Plant de Tomates” sold at the same auction for $21.1 million, setting a record for a still-life by the Spanish artist.

Still, while all this looks pretty rosy for the auction house, there is still the wild card of guarantees. According to the Guardian, many of the works in yesterday’s auction were guaranteed to the owners for a baseline price, meaning the houses could in effect be losing money and distorting the market.

“There are some big-hitters this week, although a lot of it is already sold because of the guarantees,” said Gerlis. “Certainly it is going to look healthy, if you see what I mean.” [Guardian | CNN]

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