There was small, discrete vinyl press-on lettering on the façade of Sotheby’s New York headquarters during the RM Sotheby’s “Driven by Disruption” auction. Almost hidden behind the revolving door’s drum on the uptown side, it said: “RM Auctions, Inc. d/b/a RM Sotheby’s”.
In the packed auction room (Fire Marshal’s capacity 960 and filled to Standing Room Only that challenged the rated occupancy) there was little Sotheby’s presence. Phones, bid-spotters, Max Girardo and Alain Squindo on the block, Rob working the bidders: this was an RM classic car production on the big stage in the Big Apple.
What little there was of Sotheby’s presence consisted mostly of carefully turned out barely wet-behind-the-ears associates, notable for their stylish New York black-and-white attire, taking in the unusual scene. They weren’t quite slack-jawed at the RM show, but close.
The 10th floor preview area was, as it was two years ago, lushly presented. Access was limited, but rarely presented a real problem and if a respite from great cars was needed there was an adjacent preview for to-die-for mechanical watches. Troupes of handlers walked through pushing carts of carefully covered up timepieces on their way to the auction room, shadowed by watchful guys almost certainly licensed and carrying.
The consignment was down slightly, from 35 to 31 lots, and the sell-through also was well below the 90+% RM Sotheby’s has achieved in most of its recent auctions. However the total sale at $72.5 million was well above the $62.6 million of 2013.
While the sale’s popular sensation was the $1.76 million sale of Janis Joplin’s Porsche 356 SC Cabriolet, it wasn’t wholly unexpected. The car guys in the room, on the other hand, were aghast at the $3.74 million realized for the Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow sedan, another notch in the belt of a healthy and largely fad-resistant Classic Car market.
Only one of the Ferraris did anything spectacular, and it wasn’t the headline consignment 290MM at $28 million. The Ferrari surprise was the Enzo, which brought $3.3 million, a step up on the order of two times from other recent (non-Papal) Enzo transactions.
Overall, good sense prevailed, setting a sound and rational baseline for the upcoming Arizona auctions.