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Young Artists and Buyers Connect At Christie’s Buoyant ‘First Open’

Christie’s realized $8.4 million on Sept. 13 for its fourth “First Open,” an auction of contemporary art that targets new collectors. Of 284 lots on offer, 77 percent, or 219 works, found buyers. By value the auction was 90 percent sold. (Sotheby’s will hold its next contemporary art sale in New York on Oct. 11.)

NEW YORK—Christie’s realized $8.4 million on Sept. 13 for its fourth “First Open,” an auction of contemporary art that targets new collectors. Of 284 lots on offer, 77 percent, or 219 works, found buyers. By value the auction was 90 percent sold. (Sotheby’s will hold its next contemporary art sale in New York on Oct. 11.)

The top price of the Christie’s sale was $340,800, given for Espérantus, 1971, a work by Jean Dubuffet (1901-85), within the estimate of $250,000/350,000. Second in line was The Joshua, 1987, an acrylic on canvas by Ed Ruscha (b. 1937)thatfetched $262,400 (estimate: $120,000/180,000). This was followed by Right of Way Forever, 1998, an oil on canvas by Albert Oehlen (b. 1954)that brought $240,000 (estimate: $150,000/200,000).
$2M Above Last Year’s Total

Zach Miner, head of the auction, told ARTnewsletter that of numerous dealers listed as buyers of the top lots, many said they were “buying specifically for individual clients.” The audience for the sale continues to grow, Miner reports, noting that the recent total is up more than $2 million from the sale held a year-ago September (ANL, 10/11/06).

He calls the First Open “an excellent vehicle for seasoned collectors to acquire substantial works of art while, at the same time, also offering new buyers a comfortable entry level and a variety of contemporary and historical material.”

The auction featured a mix of older works by major artists the likes of Willem de Kooning (1904-97), Isamu Noguchi (1904-88)and Andy Warhol (1928-87), alongside more recent works by well-known younger artists such as Matthew Barney (b. 1967), Douglas Gordon (b. 1966)and Dirk Skreber (b. 1961).

Miner says the range of material appeals to buyers of pieces by artists new to the scene as well as those seeking lower-priced works by major artists. “Some buyers are kind of speculating with the works of young emerging artists—they’re not sure if there is going to be a big return, but they’re enjoying the work,” he says, adding that they want to patronize young artists.

For other beginning collectors, says Miner, a “safer” way to enter the market involves buying prints or works on paper by well-known names that can be resold a few years later—gaining the leverage to invest in a painting or “buy up.” For instance, the auction featured numerous works by Alexander Calder (1898-1976), including a 1931 ink drawing, Cycle Act, which more than doubled the high $90,000 estimate when it sold for $228,000 to a U.S. dealer.

Among works by younger artists that achieved strong prices, Suicide, 2002, by Barnaby Furnas (b. 1973), took $38,400, within the estimate of $30,000/40,000. A 1998 untitled painting by Mark Grotjahn (b. 1968) sold for $19,200, comfortably above the $8,000/12,000 estimate; and From a New World Towards the Next, 2004, an oil by Martin Eder (b. 1968), made a record $198,000 (estimate: $70,000/90,000). Female Prophet Anne, Samuel’s Mother, 2003, by Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977), fell for $42,000, above its high estimate of $35,000.

A color print from the “Nudes” series by Thomas Ruff (b. 1958), Nudes ta14, 2004, fetched $102,000, against a $50,000/70,000 estimate.

Other notable prices included $228,000 for Untitled (Protest Painting), 1960, six joined canvases mounted on panel, by Richard Prince (b. 1949), well above the estimated $100,000/150,000.
Mixed Results for Works by Muniz

Demand was spotty for several lots by Vik Muniz (b. 1961).Of five offered at the sale, just two found buyers, including, Jolly Good Fellow (from Pictures of Chocolate), 1999, which sold below expectations for $9,600 (estimate: $10,000/15,000); and Pantheon I (American Men) Andy Warhol, 2000, a mounted Cibachrome print, which took $19,200 (estimate: $10,000/15,000). The remaining three portraits from Muniz’s “American Men” series, each estimated at $10,000/15,000, failed to sell.

Barney’s triptych CREMASTER 3: The Giants’ Causeway, 2002, brought $78,000 (estimate: $40,000/60,000), while another color print, CREMASTER 3: Plumb Line, 2001, which carried an estimate of $15,000/20,000, was bought in.

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