Miró and Rembrandt Head Sotheby’s $193 M. London Hybrid Finale Sale

Auctioneer Oliver Baker in London Saleroom. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

On Tuesday, Sotheby’s wrapped the summer auction season with its inaugural cross-category sale comprising works by old masters, modern masters and contemporary artists, under the title ‘Rembrandt to Richter.’ The sale comes on the heels of the auction house’s successful $363 million live-streamed auction. The strength of Sotheby’s 95% sell-through rate for the 62 lots that found buyers was due, in part, to the strategic withdrawal of a few key lots and Sotheby’s careful management of the sale. Success was also helped by long holding periods of the works of art on offer and the bidding interest of prominent dealers. Sotheby’s second hybrid auction brought in a total of £149.7 million ($192.7 million), against a pre-sale estimate of £108.2 million – 155.5 million ($139.3 million –$200.1 million) with 50% of the sales lots reaching past their high estimates. Sotheby’s representatives say the event drew a total of 150,000 viewers from the firm’s online channels.

Works by Joan Miró, Rembrandt and Gerard Richter led the London auction. Auction records were set for Italian Renaissance painter, Paolo Uccello, French sculptor Henri Laurens and British painter, Cedric Morris. Before the sale began, five lots were withdrawn, with another added to the total of six by sale’s end. The withdrawal of Francis Bacon’s 1986 portrait of close friend and heir John Edwards was the biggest disappointment of the evening auction, as it was estimated to fetch between £12 million to 18 million ($15.5 million to $23.3 million).

The advantage of the sale—besides its roster of coveted artists hailing from top collections—was that bidders had become acclimated to the new virtual auction format. Auctioneer Oliver Barker kicked off the 3 1/2 hour long sale with an opening address on Sotheby’s view of the future that “has come sooner than we thought.” Like its modern and contemporary counterpart sale, held on June 29, the auction focused more on the specialists bidding for clients over the phone instead of the charismatic auctioneer. But this time, Sotheby’s did more than reverse the normal auction theater. The auction house invited into the London sale room 20 masked clients seated at small tables to provide an atmosphere of a live sale. To further spice up the visuals, specialist Brooke Lampley wore a borrowed diamond necklace that will feature in a future jewelry sale and Barker got to briefly sport a Rolex Daytona in the coveted Paul Newman style that will also eventually star in another auction.

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