Christie's New York Mid-Season Post-War & Contemporary = $26 Million

Demand for Drexler, Bontecou, Schnable, Ismail, Omofemi and Hughes drive the mid-season market

Christie’s mid-season Post-War and Contemporary art sale in New York totaled $26,117,178, which reflects a strong hammer ration of nearly 1.4 with a sell-through rate of 82% on the 184 lots offered. Only one lot was withdrawn from the sale. The solid sell-through rate for a sale that focuses on the middle market is another reminder of the strength in this end of the collecting spectrum.

The top lot of the sale by price was an Ed Ruscha painting, Kids from 1987-8 that made $2.58 million. The most dynamic lot was Lynne Drexler’s deaccessioned work, Flowered Hundred from the Farnsworth museum in Maine, which made $1.97 million, reflecting a hammer ratio of 23.75. Second in the list of dynamic lots was Oluwole Omofemi’s Invader, which sold for $189,000 over a $10,000 low estimate. Emily Mae Smith’s Blow Up continues her very strong market run with a sale at $529,200 over a $50,000 low estimate. Isshaq Ismail’s Oman Mu Nsem No. 4 made $113,400 over a $12,000 low estimate. The final work among the five most dynamic lots was almost as much of a surprise as the Drexler success. Julian Schnabel’s Salinas Cruz was offered at $80,000 and eventually sold for $630,000 including fees.

Switching back to the top prices paid in the sale, Jeff Koons’s Travel Bar had a third party guarantee and made $1,197,000. That’s the same as the Lynne Drexler, putting both works in second place by price. A small table-top Alexander Calder stabile without a title was estimated at a healthy $200,000, but that proved to lack ambition. The final selling price was $730,800.

An untitled Lee Bontecou work on paper from 1958 had a $200,000 low estimate and a $718,200 selling price. Shara Hughes continues to sell works at multiples of the low estimates. It’s only a matter of time until her estimates will have to rise to meet her well-publicized price level. In the meantime, we have sales like That’s a Wall of Plants which was offered with an $18,000 selling price but made $680,400.

The list of the top ten lots in the sale were dominated by works with very high hammer ratios. The Koons was one exception. The other two were a Tauba Auerbach untitled fold painting that sold below the low estimate for $630,000 and another early George Condo, The Wooden Horse, that made $504,000. Although the Auerbach was disappointing for the consignor, the $630,000 price is about the level these works saw in 2013 before the run-up in the value of fold paintings. A recent sale in November of the Macklowe’s fold painting at $1.835 million may have convinced the seller that Auerbach’s fold market was back to near peak levels after a major show of the artist’s work in San Francisco.

The graph above shows the first 85 lots in Christie's sales by hammer ratio. The size of each bubble reflects the selling price of the work; the color shows the decade in which the work was made. Although the initial run of lots was front-loaded to produce market pops, the sale saw consistent aggressive bidding throughout. The graph below represents the second half of the day-long sale. Here you can see the regular episodes of strong competition. 


Christie’s was able to establish market prices for slew of artists including Louise Fishman, Deborah Remington, Ruth Abrams, Amaranth Ehrenhalt, Rachel Harrison, Michele D’Ermo and Marcus Jensen.

Other strong sales worth noting were prices paid for works by Elaine de Kooning, Hilary Pecis, Robert Motherwell, Robert Longo, Helen Frankenthaler, Gabriel Orozco and Richard Serra.

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