ARTnewsletter Archive

Contemporary Sales Set a ‘Confident Tone’

Midseason sales of Postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York Sept. 23–24 yielded solid results, though totals were considerably lower than those achieved in previous seasons.

NEW YORK—Midseason sales of Postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York Sept. 23–24 yielded solid results, though totals were considerably lower than those achieved in previous seasons. On Sept. 23, Christie’s First Open sale, which is aimed at newer collectors, brought in $4.4million, down from the $6.5million total of last fall’s sale (ANL, 9/16/08), but bettering the $3million result achieved in the spring (ANL, 3/31/09). At this year’s sale, 129, or 83 percent, of the 155 lots on offer were sold. By value, the auction was 88 percent sold.

Sotheby’s contemporary sale on Sept. 24 brought in a total of $5.5million for 313 lots offered, compared with $10.6million for 412 lots offered last fall (ANL, 9/16/08). Of this year’s lots, 235, or 75 percent, were sold. By value, the auction was 85 percent sold.

Alexandre Carel, head of Christie’s First Open sale, said that it set “a positive, confident tone for the season.” Most of the top lots took prices well above estimate. The auction was led by an Andy Warhol Flowers painting, 1964, which sold to a U.S. dealer for $1.1million, well above the $500,000/700,000 estimate. That was followed by Roni Horn’s six-piece aluminum and Plexiglas sculptural installation Steven’s Bouquet, 1991 (from an edition of three), which doubled its $70,000/100,000 estimate to sell for $242,500 to a European dealer. Adolph Gottlieb’s oil on paper Flat Black, 1970, was sold for $134,500 to a private U.S. collector, surpassing the estimate of $90,000/120,000. Takashi Murakami’s circular painting Flower of Joy—Yellow Ochre, 2007, sold for $116,500, clearing the $70,000/90,000 estimate. Carel said the high sold-by-value rate and competitive bidding were indications of the “market’s appetite for opportunities to acquire quality works of art at competitive prices.”

A 1950 untitled abstract oil painting by Conrad Marca-Relli (1913–2000) soared past its modest estimate of $10,000/15,000 to sell for $86,500 to a U.S. dealer. The artist’s estate is now represented by Knoedler & Company, New York, where an exhibition of his work is on view through Nov. 14 (ANL, 9/22/09).

An untitled 1973 painting by Sigmar Polke sold for $110,500, above the $70,000/100,000 estimate. The work had been acquired for $84,000 at a day sale of contemporary art at Sotheby’s in New York in May 2007, where it had been estimated at $50,000/70,0000. A bronze sculpture from an edition of 25 by Yue Minjun, Warrior No. 6, 2005, sold within its $80,000/120,000 estimate to an Asian collector for $92,500.

Works by Warhol also led Sotheby’s sale, with the top price of $374,500 being paid for Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato Soup), 1985, a black and white synthetic polymer and silk-screen ink painting, which carried an estimate of $250,000/350,000. A mixed-media work on paper by Warhol, Untitled (Horse), ca. 1957, estimated at $80,000/120,000, brought $254,500. The work was sold from the collection of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, to benefit its acquisitions fund. The artwork was a gift from the artist to Laura Eastman, whose horse it depicts. Eastman was the niece of the museum’s benefactor Henry Walters.

An auction record was set for a work by Ruud van Empel (b. 1958) when World #17, a Ciba­chrome print mounted on aluminum, doubled its $45,000/65,000 estimate to sell for $116,500 to a private U.S. collector. An untitled abstract sculpture, 1966, by Mark di Suvero sold to a U.S. collector for $80,500 against an estimate of $40,000/60,000. Jennifer Roth, head of the fine-arts department at Sotheby’s, said the sale produced “strong competitive bidding from many parts of the world on all types of works, from classic Warhols to pieces by younger artists,” such as van Empel, Jim Campbell and Karen Kilimnik. Kilimnik’s pastel on paper Katherine Ross, The Legacy, 1994, sold for $53,125, nearly tripling the $12,000/18,000 estimate.

Op art works by Victor Vasarely also drew solid demand. Dobogoko, 1957, sold to a private Asian buyer for $80,500 on an estimate of $30,000/50,000, and VP-109, 1970, sold to a California collector for $68,500 on an estimate of $50,000/70,000. As at Christie’s, work by Marca-Relli sold well, with The Dressmaker, 1982, a mixed-media collage, clearing its $15,000/20,000 estimate to fetch $28,125. George Segal’s wall sculpture Leon, 1989, sold for $68,500, above the $40,000/60,000 estimate.

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