Some of the biggest auction houses are gearing up for tremendous sales. Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses have seen their stocks rise and rise; their total sales clocked in at about $7 billion each in 2014. Earlier this year, Christie’s auctioned off a Picasso piece for a record-breaking $179 million, the largest sale ever. Now that auction season is about to begin in New York, there will be lots of interesting items going up for bidding.
Sotheby’s plans to offer pieces from the collection of its former (and formerly disgraced) chairman, A. Alfred Taubman, who was imprisoned in 2002 for creating a price-fixing scheme with Christie’s. Now, Sotheby’s seeks to restore Taubman’s image by releasing his collection, which includes two Rothko paintings, valued at $20-$30 million and some works be de Kooning and Picasso which are also expected to sell in that price range.
There will also be a number of Impressionist works by Kandinsky, Magritte, and Cézanne up for auction as well as several Picassos and van Goghs. Phillips, a smaller but equally prestigious auction house, will be auctioning more modern, 20th century works. A 1977 de Kooning work, “Untitled XXVIII,” is expected to sell between $10 and $15 million.
The art market is healthy, even booming, currently. Its global market is 20 times as large as it was in 1990, and art is becoming more valued as an investment and status symbol than it has been before. Some are saying that the high prices of art and the massive expansion in the market are a sign of a bubble, not unlike what we’ve seen with tech bubbles. The expansion in the art market suggests that art has become transnational, a global phenomenon, rather than a local or regional interest.
As far as Mr. Taubman’s collection is concerned, Sotheby’s is expecting to receive $500 million for his extensive collection. Mr. Taubman died earlier this year at the age of 91. Despite his jail sentence and unsavory business conduct, Sotheby’s hopes to restore him as “an American gentleman.” “This is a historic sale,” says the co-head of Sotheby’s Impressionist art. “There has never been a collection of this significance.”