Contemporary Art

LiveArt After Action Report: The Now and Contemporary Evening Sales (Sotheby’s New York)

The Bullet: The Now: $72,930,850 with 100% sold (23/23 + one lot withdrawn); Contemporary Evening sale: $210,502,700 with 93% sold (26/27 + one lot withdrawn)

Composition of Results: The Now: 65% above/ 26% within/ 7% below estimates 

Contemporary Evening sale: 33% above/ 41% within/ 26% below estimates 

The average price of a lot in tonight’s sale was $2.62m for The Now and $6.72m for Contemporary Eventing sale. To see more stats from tonight, click here.

“It’s completely divorced from reality”: A dealer in mid-century masters said during the intermission after Sotheby’s The Now sale exploded with buyers. Some of the lots in The Now sale had more than 10 bidders lined up in advance. The auction house’s press team said more than 25% of The Now’s lots—that’s six lots—had “deep bidding from Asia.” 

A majority of women: Sotheby’s was also keen to point out that 14 of the 22 artists in the sale were women. The first 10 lots were by women artists and six of those set new records for the artists. They were Anna Weyant at $1.623m, Christina Quarles at $4.527m, Simone Leigh at $2.167m, Jennifer Packer at $2.349m, Avery Singer at $5.253m and Lucy Bull making a debut at $907,200. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye set her second highest price at $1.744m but it looked like Sotheby’s was setting her up for another leg up. Tracey Emin set her highest price for a painting at $819,000 for a recent work from 2017. Of this group of works, the Quarles was particularly striking because her work has shown up slowly but steadily on the secondary market and made strong prices since 2018; however, the high-water mark before this sale was a heady $685,500 but nothing like the price set tonight. Also worth noting were strong prices for Elaine Sturevant whose Johns appropriation of a white flag made 2.8 times the estimate at $2.1 million—and Helen Frankenthaler’s Circe which was bid $1.4 million above the estimates to sell for $4.7 million. 

There were other records to be had: In addition there were records for Virgil Abloh (his first piece at auction), Adrian Ghenie and Matthew Wong.  Wong seems to be having something of a second wind in his market with a record price set last week and then again this week. Also, Sean Scully and Georg Baselitz, a guy who hasn’t been very welcoming to women artists. 

Four Baselitzes and a Kiefer: Philadelphia healthcare entrepreneur Hardie Beloff had a collection of Baselitz works the auction house called the “greatest grouping of Baselitz in private hands.” The “hero” painting, Falle, carried the highest estimate but sold for the second highest total for a Baselitz at $8.36 million. The highest price is for another “hero” painting. The hit of the Beloff collection was Dresdener Frauen, Baselitz’s sculpture that sold for a record $11.24 million more than three times the $3 million low estimate. 

Guston’s Red Klansman: Remorse, Philip Guston’s return to figuration, was sold for $7.79 million after it was bid $1.5 million above the estimate. 

Warhol’s The American Indian: Three Warhol canvases of Russell Means made $6.18 million over a $3 million estimate. 

Kerry James Marshall’s Beauty Examined: Priced off the strong sale last year for a work from this period, Beauty Examined made strong headway to finish at $13.5 million. 

Reality Bites: Works that showed the top of the market losing traction after a month of market retreat were the Francis Bacon pope painting that made $46.2 million off one bid from Gregoire Billault, Sotheby’s Bacon maven. Seven years ago, a Cy Twombly blackboard painting sold at Sotheby’s for $70.5 million. Tonight another example held in the same family for 25 years, according to Oliver Barker, made $38 million which was more in line with the $41.6 million Sotheby’s got for another example a year earlier. There was also only one bid on the Twombly. View the full results here.

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