Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu Couché

Amedeo Modigliani, Nu Couché, 1917-18; oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 36 1/4 inches; image via Christie’s Images LTD
Amedeo Modigliani, Nu Couché, 1917-18; oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 36 1/4 inches; image via Christie’s Images LTD

It has been a superlative auction season in New York with sales of Impressionist, modern, and contemporary art totaling more than $2 billion. Christie’s reported a decline from last November with sales of $968 million, and Sotheby’s increased to $978 million notwithstanding a poor third quarter and concern about the margins on its $500 million guarantee for the Taubman collection.

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Auction Guarantees: Show Me the Monet

Alberto Giacometti, Chariot (2/6), conceived in 1950 and cast in 1951-52; painted bronze on wooden base, 57 inches; image courtesy of Sotheby's
Alberto Giacometti, Chariot (2/6), conceived in 1950 and cast in 1951-52; painted bronze on wooden base, 57 inches; image courtesy of Sotheby’s.   The work sold for $100.9 million with an unknown guarantee at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art sale on November 4, 2014.

After a record-breaking year in which global art auctions exceeded $16 billion, the world’s largest auction houses have resumed the risky practice of guaranteeing minimum prices for very expensive lots. Christie’s and Sotheby’s had mostly abandoned guarantees in late 2008, and observers are keen to speculate about their return.  February sales with works by Monet, Cézanne, and Picasso are primed to set new records.

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Maurizio Cattelan’s La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour)

Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960), La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour), installation view, wax, clothing, polyester resin with metallic powder, volcanic rock, carpet, glass, dimensions variable
Maurizio Cattelan, La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour), 1999; wax, clothing, polyester resin with metallic powder, volcanic rock, carpet, glass, dimensions variable; image via Christie’s

Maurizio Cattelan’s installation of La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) is a life-sized effigy of Pope John Paul II struck down by a meteor. First exhibited in 1999 at the Kunsthalle Basel, La Nona Ora was featured at the Royal Academy in London in 2000, and also at the Zacheta Gallery of Contemporary Art in Warsaw. Christie’s sold the piece in 2001 for $886,000, and a second version was auctioned by Phillips, de Pury & Company in 2004 for $3 million.

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