9/9/11 11:51 AMSpring Auctions to Test Prices of Picasso, Monet and Warhol - WSJ.comPage 2 of 7http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704132204576285371304918828.html#printMode
Venus: Statues of the classical love goddess areselling well. Globe-trotting 19th-century Frenchphotographer Louis de Clercq once owned thisversion, from around the second century, and aprivate European collector is selling it in June for atleast $350,000.
$10.9 billion: That's China's art spending in 2010; ithas quadrupled over the past five years. Theimportance of Asian collectors to the new art marketcan't be overestimated. This Qianlong vase comesfrom the mid-18th century and is priced around $25million.
the reigning price champ, but Sotheby's expects to get atleast $25 million for Picasso's "Women Reading," a1934 view of the same mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, who showed up in the artist's record-setting "Nude."Rival Christie's is asking $20 million or more for ClaudeMonet's "Poplars," a work it sold for $7 million justover a decade ago.The role Asia is playing in the market's recovery cannot be overstated: China's art spending in auctions andgalleries has nearly quadrupled over the past five years,to $10.9 billion, says Artvest Partners, a New York art-finance firm. China now outsells European art hubs likeBritain, the European Fine Art Foundation says. What's selling overall? Auction houses say newcomersare asking for large-scale pieces—possibly wanting toget their money's worth on an inch-by-inch basis. SoChristie's, in marketing its major Impressionist andmodern sale on Wednesday, has played up the fact thatone of its star lots, Monet's "Mauve Irises," is one of theartist's tallest works, around 6 feet 5 inches. Askingprice: at least $15 million. Sotheby's has also created asymbol, a miniature pavilion, to signal "monumental"pieces in its catalog.Brightly colored art also seems to be attracting extraattention this season, from the saturated palettes of Picasso and Andy Warhol to cheery-colored Chinese vases to diamonds in intense shades of pink and blue.Subject matters that are universally understood—love,death, family, pretty scenery—are also outperformingthe artistically cryptic or obscure. Dealers say collectorsare seeking to buy works that might be easier to reselllater to a global audience. That partly explains why demand is rising for Roman marble depictions of Venus, the goddess of love, or why some mainlandChinese buyers are seeking out crisp, lush Victorian-eraportraits of beautiful women."The speed of the art market's recovery is astonishing, but it's a differently revived market," said MichaelPlummer, a principal of Artvest. "The lesson of thecrash was to do your homework. Collectors feel wiserfor the experience."