Christie's Holds the Line

The Fall art market might see a correction but it didn't happen today as Christie's made $25.7 million during its Post-War to Present sale.

Shifts in the global financial order had already begun before the marquee auctions of the Spring. Nevertheless, the art market held up far better than many participants expected. Since the Summer break, interest rates have risen and inflation continues to be a meaningful threat. Global financial markets, especially foreign exchange markets, continue to respond to a strengthening dollar. These constraints have brought more attention to the mid-season sales in New York.

The Stats

The $25,780,734 million early season opener comes in 1.5% below the Spring edition of the same sale. For those approaching the Fall market warily, these results will at least quell some jitters. 

The aggregate low estimate for the sale was $19.25 million. The final hammer total was $20.46 million. When the hammer total is divided by the aggregate low estimate we get a hammer ratio of 1.06. This positive-but-low number suggests a less dynamic market (here come the jitters, again.)

Of the 240 lots that were offered, 198 sold for an 82.5% sell-through rate. Of the sold lots, 29% sold above estimates; 47% of the lots sold within the estimates; 22% were sacrificed for prices below the estimates. For this sale, aggressive bidding was rare.

Looking at the top 25 lots by premium price, only a quarter of those were bid above the estimate range. Of the top dozen lots by price, only one, Lynne Drexler’s Violet Sunlight was bid above the estimates to a $781,200 premium price and few thought its low estimate was realistic. 

Screen Shot 2022-09-29 at 10.27.10 AMFrank Bowling, Barticaflats VII sold for $403,200

The Top Lots

The list of names that populate the top 25 lots in the sale by premium price are a reminder that collectors continue to seek out artists and works that will redress the skewed representation of previous collecting. Nine of the 23 different artists on the list are women; eight are persons of color; that’s hardly equity but it is representation. 

Sam Gilliam and Vija Celmins both had strong sales at $756,000, the low estimate for both works.

Christina Quarles first work to appear since the blowout success of her $4.5 million work in May sold at a price just above her previous record price. No one should scoff at a $693,000 but it does confirm the record price was the product of special circumstances (including the impact of the artist’s work at the Venice Biennale and the provenance of the seller.)

Mary Weatherford’s Coney Island gave the artist her third highest auction price at $478,800.

Willem de Kooning’s untitled work on paper (mounted on canvas) from the Montauk series was bought at Christie’s in 2019 for $200,000. Today, it was resold for $403,200. 

Derek Fordjour’s Three Ghee Sunrise made this year and being sold for charity became his second highest auction price at $302,400.

A 2009 work by Jacqueline Humphries called Siren also made $302,400 or her third highest price at auction coming in just behind a price paid for a 2008 work in March. 

 

Screen Shot 2022-09-29 at 10.28.37 AMLynne Drexler, Tropic Blue sold for $352,800

Lots to Watch

Jonathan Lasker’s Theories About Exotica was the biggest surprise beating the $20,000 low estimate by nearly five times to make $119,700 placing it among the top three prices a Lasker work has made at auction. 

Lynne Drexler’s Tropic Blue was among the most valuable works—$352,800— that saw deep bidding. The 1969 work shows that Drexler’s market has breadth in terms of the style of her work and dates that collectors will shell out for. Tomorrow will provide more information as even more different works test the market. 

Jean Dubuffet’s Arbre burlesque IV, one of the artist’s tree sculptures, sold for $277,200 which was nearly three times what the auction house was expecting. 

A record was set for Vincent Fecteau when an untitled work by the Matthew Marks artist sold for $100,800.

Jenny Holzer’s Truism work made a strong $579,600 almost twice the estimate. 

Loie Hollowell’s Swimmers made $378,000 with the help of bidding from China. That brings her market back to front of mind.

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