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$40M Sales of Prints and Multiples Hit Record Levels

Auctions of prints and multiples at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in early May hit record totals. Christie’s said the $18.9 million total for sales held May 1-2 was its best since 1989. Sotheby’s sales, held May 3-4, fetched $17.9 million, well above the estimated $11/15 million, and marked Sotheby’s highest overall total since 1990. The

NEW YORK—Auctions of prints and multiples at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in early May hit record totals. Christie’s said the $18.9 million total for sales held May 1-2 was its best since 1989. Sotheby’s sales, held May 3-4, fetched $17.9 million, well above the estimated $11/15 million, and marked Sotheby’s highest overall total since 1990. The Swann Galleries sale on May 4 of “Old Master through Modern Prints” yielded $3.3 million.

The prints and multiples market “has been building at a brisk pace over the past years,” observes Christie’s specialist Kelly Troester.

The top lot at the house was Andy Warhol’s Mao, a complete set of ten screenprints that sold above the $450,000 high estimate for $480,000. Henri Matisse’s Jazz, 1947, a set of 20 pochoirs, or stencils, also brought $480,000 (estimate: $400,000/600,000) from an American collector. According to Christie’s catalogue, the Isselbacher Gallery, New York, had purchased the set directly from Madame Teríade, widow of the publisher Efstratios Eleftheriades Terìade (1897-1983), and was apparently a working copy used by the publisher. The set was offered from the Memphis-based Guardsmark collection, formed by company founder Ira Lipman.

An 1889 etching by James McNeill Whistler, Square House, Amsterdam, fetched $264,000, far above the estimated $60,000/80,000, from a European dealer.

Two works by Edvard Munch were also among the top sellers: A 1903 lithograph, The Brooch, Eva Mudocci, fell for $252,000 (estimate: $75,000/100,000); and Vampire II, a lithograph dated 1895-1902, brought $228,000 (estimate: $200,000/250,000). The work, according to the Christie’s catalogue, had been confiscated as “degenerate art” by the German National Socialist Regime and was bought at auction in 1939 by

Oslo collector Harald H. Halvorsen, along with other confiscated Munch works, for £8.

Other works by Warhol that drew competitive bidding included Ads, 1985, a complete set of ten screenprints that sold for $384,000 (estimate: $200,000/300,000). Among images featured in the set: James Dean, from Rebel Without a Cause; Judy Garland for Blackglama fur; a Van Heusen ad with Ronald Reagan; Life Savers candy and Chanel. The image Shoes (Diamond Dust Shoes), 1980, brought $216,000 (estimate: $180,000/250,000).

Says Christie’s Troester: “For artists from Edward Hopper to Andy Warhol, the sale shattered previous world auction records.” She adds that activity in the room was further supported by phone and online bidding. Of 748 lots offered, 667, or 89 percent, were sold. By value the auction was 95 percent sold.

At Sotheby’s the top-selling lot was Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s lithograph Cake Walk, 1910, which took $689,600 (estimate: $400,000/600,000). The print, depicting two dancers with legs extended, is named for a traditional African-American dance form originating in the Southern United States, says Sotheby’s catalogue, noting that the work, “an exceptionally rare lithograph,” was “executed during Kirchner’s Dresden period at the height of his mature Brücke style.”

Names behind top-selling works the likes of Marc Chagall, Richard Diebenkorn, Warhol, and Whistler, overlapped at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Swann’s.

At Sotheby’s, Warhol’s 1968 set of ten screenprints, Campbell’s Soup I, in various colors, took $360,000 (estimate: $240,000/280,000), while Endangered Species, 1983, ten screenprints in colors, fell for $348,000, generously surpassing the high estimate of $250,000.

“Interest in artists from the American Pop movement continues to rise, with record prices paid for seminal images by Roy Lichtenstein and

Andy Warhol,” comments Christopher Gaillard, Sotheby’s vice president and head of contemporary prints.

Lichtenstein’s Nude with Blue Hair, State I, 1994, earned $264,000 (estimate: $40,000/60,000), a record for a print by the artist.

A print record was also set for Diebenkorn when Green, 1986, realized $324,000 (estimate: $200,000/300,000).

Mary Bartow, Sotheby’s senior vice president and head of the prints department, notes “global participation, with particularly strong interest from the American and European trade, and many key pieces also selling to private collectors.”

Whistler’s Portrait of Whistler, 1859, brought $216,000 (estimate: $180,000/220,000), while his 1879-80 etching Nocturne went for $204,000 (estimate: $40,000/60,000).

Another version of the work Nocturne, an etching in drypoint, 1879-80, topped the list at Swann’s, taking $102,000. Pablo Picasso’s Grand tête de femme au chapeau, 1962, fetched $72,000. Todd Weyman, Swann’s vice president and director of prints and drawings, reports that the auction yielded “strong results across the board.”

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