Rare Van Gogh Painting Sells At Auction For $15.4M

Rare Van Gogh Painting Sells At Auction For $15.4M

Photo courtesy Sotheby's / ArtDigital Studio.

At a time when non-fungible tokens are dominating the talk of the art auction world, a rare work by Vincent Van Gogh was sold at auction by Sotheby's Paris for $15.4 million.

What Happened: The painting "Street Scene in Montmartre" was created by Van Gogh in 1887, one year after his arrival in Paris and three years before his death by suicide. The work became part of a private collection in 1920, and while art historians were aware of its existence, it was never exhibited for the public.

The auction was marred by a glitch in the online bidding system, and the initial sale of $16.4 million was voided for a second auction that resulted in the $15.4 million transaction. Sotheby's did not identify the winning bidder.

Why It Matters: The high profile given to the Van Gogh painting gives some much-needed good news to the art auction world. According to a data analysis from Art Market Research Developments, the number of paintings sold at auction between January and September 2020 was down 20.2% from the same period one year earlier. And while online auctions took on new popularity during the pandemic — the online-exclusive sales at Christie's, Phillips, and Sotheby's in the first eight months of 2020 totaled $321 million, versus $94.4 million for all of 2019. The return to in-person auctions is being welcomed in this sector.

"People want to be able to inspect what they're buying," said AMRD CEO Sebastian Duthy in an interview with the British magazine World Finance. "Of course, technology finds ways to make it feel like you're actually looking at the real thing and give people confidence that they are buying something of great quality, but nothing beats kicking the tires yourself and having a close look."


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