Sotheby’s New York started off the Autumn auction season yesterday in style by selling $377 of art once owned by billionaire and former Sotheby’s owner Alfred Taubman There were eye watering bids from the usual suspects in America, Asia and Europe. The 77 lots included bluechip works by Picasso, Degas, Monet and Modigliani. The Taubman collection was valued at $375 million to $527 million before the sale.
Mall- king Taubman made his fortune as a developer and is credited with being the brains behind the creation of the modern shopping centre. He purchased the lack-luster auction house in the 1980s and turned it into a profitable business, before becoming embroiled in a price fixing scandal, which he was jailed for in 2002. He always maintained his innocence.
The highest price achieved last night was $42.81 million for an exquisite portrait by Amedeo Modigliani this was its first auction appearance. Five bidders battled it out. The 1919 portrait “Paulette Jourdain” depicts the housemaid and later lover of the Italian’s art dealer, Leopold Zborowski. It was one of the artist’s last paintings.
A 1976 landscape by American abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning, “Untitled XXI,” which sold for $24.89 million, scraping its lowest pre-sale estimate of $25 million. Pablo Picasso’s portrait of his lover Dora Maar, once owned by murdered Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, sold slightly under budget at $20 million. Sotheby’s had valued the oil painting, “Femme assise sur une chaise,” at $25 to $35 million before the auction.
Two other top lots failed to sell after failing to attract minimum bids — “Femme Nue” by Edgar Degas and “Disappearance I” by American painter Jasper Johns, which were both valued at $15-20 million. Simon Shaw, co-head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art, said he was “surprised” that the Degas had not sold and expected there would now be a lot of competition to snap it up. ‘Efficient market’ -“That was one of the real jewels of this collection. No question that’s the best Degas pastel that has been on the market in quite a significant time,” he told reporters. “There’s a lot of liquidity out there but people really want the right things. And they’re quite careful about how they spend their money, so it’s quite an efficient marketplace I’d say,” Shaw said.