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The "Fleming" cello failed to meet reserve


Magnus Nedregard
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How much of that cello was actually made by Stradivari? I think the amount of the lone bid was very generous when considering the instrument's level of originality.

The back and sides are original. Top and head are Spanish. It's not the first composite 'cello to be offered at auction. I recall one selling at Christie's in the early 90s (the auction held during the del Gesu exhibit in NY).

I personally didn't find the estimate unreasonable... but it's a public sale, and the public has spoken... at least for the day.

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I was surprised by that. I thought the influence of who owned it would make up for the unoriginal parts in value, at least partly. Fleming was influential, right?

I worked for Tarisio, in Chicago, for their 2003 auction viewing of the Isaac Stern collection. What fun to spend a few days with all of that stuff. An early period Strad, a Vuillume del Gesu copy, and Sam Z's record setting instruments. I attached Stern's name to the reason why those violins got such high bids, and today thought that would happen to this cello, at least to the point of making up for some of the composite state of the instrument. But I don't know as much about influential cellists. I suppose with Stern it would be more like Yo Yo Ma.

I wonder how well it would have done just after the release of Quantum of Solace? :)

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Look at how many items went unsold or unbid upon in the London auction including this cello. Much more than New York.

Why would anyone even want to deal with a VAT tax on a $1.5-$2 million dollar cello or any other item even if you thought you were going to get a refund-what if you didn't get the VAT money back.

Perhaps it should have been offered in New York instead. Would it have made a difference? Who knows? Maybe not.

As said here above- the public has spoken.

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Look at how many items went unsold or unbid upon in the London auction including this cello. Much more than New York.

Why would anyone even want to deal with a VAT tax on a $1.5-$2 million dollar cello or any other item even if you thought you were going to get a refund-what if you didn't get the VAT money back.

Perhaps it should have been offered in New York instead. Would it have made a difference? Who knows? Maybe not.

As said here above- the public has spoken.

Amercan or non EU bidders wouldnt have paid any VAT

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I wonder if this opens up a perspective on how the financial crisis might hit the violin market... or maybe it is just a temporary phenomenon? Actually the effects of depressions on cultural life hasn't always been entirely negative. But the high-end violin market belongs as much to the financial sphere as to the cultural... countless instruments are owned by banks, complicated trusts and investors... what are the consequences if these go bankrupt?

The mid and low-end market will face different problems I suppose, I am really curious to see what direction things will take, as no-one seems to entirely understand nor the mechanisms of the present crisis or what sort of turn thing will take in the future... :) Antique instruments have so far been said to bee rather immune to the ups and downs of other markets, let's see if it is true this time...

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I agree with Jeff, the back and ribs of the cello are stunning. It was my understanding that the cello had been on the market in London for some time previous to the auction, so it is possible that most buyers in that price range had already seen it. Also, having spoken with three fine cellists who played it, I got the impression that the sound, while very good, was a bit one dimensional (for a Strad), very powerful and direct but without all the nuance one would expect. I thought it somewhat unusual to call it a "Stradivari Cello" rather than a composite cello. In the information on the cello provided by Tarisio, there was one sentence among the 8 paragraphs relating to that fact. Many people I have spoken to had no idea that it was indeed a composite.

Jeff, the cello you mentioned that was sold in the 90's was purchased, I believe, in order to supply it with a correct top which was available at the time...... :)

It will be very interesting to see how the world financial situation effects the instrument market. So far, most people who were looking for expensive instruments are still looking, but I'm mostly worried about the "bread and butter" trade and how it will be effected. It would be interesting if some of the European banks began to liquidate their collections, but I think that is unlikely as the collections are still small potatoes in their portfolios. However they will probably stop acquiring new instruments for the foreseeable future. Still, the asking prices on top instruments, great del Gesu's in particular, seems astronomical (and in one case, nearly comical). It will an interesting year!

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Jeff, the cello you mentioned that was sold in the 90's was purchased, I believe, in order to supply it with a correct top which was available at the time...... :)

I thought institution that owned it (the top that I believe may have been a good match for that back; though I never did get to see the parts together in the same room) still does..?? Did they sell it off or was the back mated with another appropriate Strad top?

The 'cellists I spoke with had the same tonal impressions of the Fleming as the 'cellists you spoke with... but with the travel the instrument was exposed to, it wouldn't surprise me if it needed a little tweaking.

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Concerning "composite:" From the Tarisio description of the instrument, one could come up with a composite in two ways:

1. Jose Contreras got hold of the cello with the top and scroll missing or damaged beyond repair. He therefore built a new top and scroll for that specific instrument, with ribs and back lying before him as guides. (I'm not sure whether this case would be called a composite.)

2. A third party (neither Strad nor Contreras) found the pieces from Strad and Contreras and put them together to produce a cello. (This would be a true composite, I would assume.)

From posts from Jeffrey and erocca, it looks like case 2 is in effect here and not case 1. Is that correct? If so, that's too bad. Case 1, I would think, would produce a more valuable instrument than case 2 would, one in which Contreras, a well regarded maker and near contemporary of Strad, tried to do what Strad had originally done, given the evidence (back and ribs) lying before Contreras.

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I would think you have various possibilities-

1. Original in all its parts

2. Made up of various parts (could be one part or many)-makers known or unknown

Obviously if the makers are known it establishes a value more clearly.

In the case of this cello it is clearly composite with makers known.

With the top and scroll, neck etc by Contreras it is as much by him as Strad himself.

I believe that is how the market views it evidenced by the lack of bids for the listed set reserve amount.

This cello will sell outside the auction market at a reduced amount-perhaps never to be published.

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I don't know about the merits or qualities underlying the cello itself, but I think the asking price and lack of bids highlights the fact that cash for these sorts of investments is at a huge premium and financing may be non-existent even for high net worth buyers and/or institutions.

From a pricing perspective for the entire auction, many instruments did not sell (already noted above); most that did, sold at the low end of the estimate (basically at reserve price), and there were only a handful that sold way above the high estimate (the Capicchioni and 2 or 3 others). If you were looking to buy, could have been a nice opportunity.

My guess on future price outlook is instruments by makers that are well below their normal price will eventually start getting bid up until they are not really bargains anymore (you can already see this effect in the stock market as people are flocking to high yield dividend investments for safety and cash). Probably most retail instruments prices haven't moved much during the crisis, unless someone is liquidating. This temporary widening in price between retail and auction will move back to a more normal ratio.

What a difference a year makes with multiple records set for various makers at the October auction last year.

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"An abstract painting by early 20th century Russian artist Kazimir Malevich has sold for just under $US60 million in New York. This smashed the previous $US17 million record for a Malevich. The Russian's works have not generally been considered in the same superstar league such as those of Picasso. The enormous sum, paid on the first night of the annual autumn auctions by Sotheby's and rival Christie's, also defied what experts describe as lean times for high-end auctions."

It seems that there might be a few people who still have some loose change rattling around in their pockets.

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"An abstract painting by early 20th century Russian artist Kazimir Malevich has sold for just under $US60 million in New York. This smashed the previous $US17 million record for a Malevich. The Russian's works have not generally been considered in the same superstar league such as those of Picasso. The enormous sum, paid on the first night of the annual autumn auctions by Sotheby's and rival Christie's, also defied what experts describe as lean times for high-end auctions."

It seems that there might be a few people who still have some loose change rattling around in their pockets.

I was bidding at an auction yesterday,one of the top lots was a cello by Guiseppe Ceruti,with an estimate of 50-75 K GBP ,it sold for 25K,there was only one bid if i recall.

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In an auction situation, it only takes two people to make the price rise, if there is only one bidder who is willing to bid to the reserve price, they win, simple as that. Even in a bad economic environment there will be instruments or paintings that will have interest beyond auction house expectations. In my opinion Tarisio allowed for the possibility that bidding would be slow and had ranges that were a bit lower than previous auctions for certain makers. In fact again referring to the Capicchioni, I thought that if the violin sold within the estimate that person would have gotten an incredible deal based on other auctions sales of his instruments. Obviously there were enough bidders to push the price well clear of the estimates.

The only protection then for the seller under these circumstances is to have a reserve price that is acceptable to them. It's surprising to me that the seller of the Ceruti in London (Brompton's I assume) would allow the reserve to be half of the estimate.

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