Nobody really seems to know what’s going on in the market for Claude Monet’s art. Without much fixation on the artist or Impressionism, sales of the echt-Impressionist have gone through the roof this year. Just looking at sales during the first half of 2022: a whopping $451,081,997 was paid for 20 works at auction for an average price of $22.5 million.
Just to give a sense of scale, in the second half of 2021, $145,448,277 was spent at auction for Monets. During the first half of that year, $131,640,688 was paid. That means collectors spent three times the amount of money on Monet in the first half of 2022. By all reasonable measure, that would be a market peak. Even if Monet sales fell by 75% in the second half of the year, overall dollar volume would still have doubled year over year.
But it doesn’t look like sales are going to drop significantly. Yes, a major portion of the value in Monets this Spring—approximately $170 million worth—was in works from the Anne Bass collection sold at Christie’s. And there was at least one important restitution lot that sold for $25.5 million also at Christie’s. Collections and restitution are sales that cannot be easily counted upon in the future. But many of the rest of the works, like this one, seemed to be coming to market in response to a rise in Monet prices during the pandemic.
As we detailed here, there seemed to be a group of works that had sold for just above $25 million before the pandemic that were selling for more than $50 million during and after the pandemic. These kinds of price jumps would put any Monet owner on notice. Indeed, at least one family that had owned a work for generations decided to sell this Spring in response.
How the Monet market will play out this Fall has become an interesting question. When it was announced late in August that Christie’s would be selling the Paul G. Allen collection, several advisors were quick to point out Allen’s extensive holdings of Monet works.
The final collection won’t be announced until later this month. But it appears that Allen owned seven Monets. Two of the works—a Rouen Cathedral and a landscape will need specialists to estimate. But we can make a rough estimate of the other five works.
Allen’s best known Monet acquisition was the grainstacks he bought at Christie’s in bought in 2016 for $81.4 million. Since then, Hasso Plattner, the SAP founder, bought another version of the series for $110 million. Of course, no two works are alike and we cannot assume that Allen’s grainstack is worth more than Plattner’s but there’s plenty of room between the two numbers for the resale to get Allen's money back or make the estate a profit.
Allen is also believed to own another version of Le Grand Canal that he bought in 2015 for $35.8 million. In May, another version from that series sold for $56.6 million.
Among the other works by Monet Allen owns is a version of the waterlilies that took up so much of the artist’s interest late in life. A similar sized and orientation work sold in 2008 for $80.5 million. Is that a good measure for Allen’s work? Time will have to be the guide.
According to advisors, Allen also bought Le Palais Contarini in 2013 for $30.5 million and this Waterloo bridge for $35.5 million in 2007.
Taken together, these works should be estimated around $350 million. Will so much Monet on the market cause the auction houses to waive off other consignors? Probably not. Allen’s works are likely to inhabit the highest region of the price spectrum leaving room for more mere seven-figure works to come to market. That means there’s even a possibility that the second half of the year’s sales could surpass the first half’s sales. We might even see $1 billion in Monet sales for the year.