ArtTactic in its teaser for the May New York sales report and on their Twitter feed have a few comments on the Contemporary art market, especially as the performance of the New York Evening sales bears upon it:
- Last week’s Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sales in New York raised a total of $759,680,000 (excluding buyer’s premium) against a pre-sale estimate of $685,800,000 – $906,800,000, which is the second highest total since November 2012 ($764 million).
- The sales total was 19.9% higher than May 2012
- The sales total was also 14 % above the peak of the market in May 2008.
- Artworks selling above $5 million accounted for 72% of total sales value in Evening Sales
- Lichtenstein, Warhol, Pollock and Richter account for 50.6% of overall Evening Sale value
Last week, Wright in Chicago held a two auctions. The first contained 13 Picasso drawings and totaled $1.7M, selling 77% by lot. The top lot was a 1943 drawing of Picasso’s mistress, Dora Maar, entitled Buste de Femme (Lot 5). It sold for $746,500. A 1970 pencil and ink drawing, Le Peintre et Son Modèle I (Lot 8) made $446,500. Nature Morte au Gramophone (Lot 2) sold for $242,500.
The second sale, Living Contemporary made $3M, selling 75% by lot. Works from private collections, including the collection Joseph and Janet Shein, were led by an untitled work on paper by Christopher Wool with the word PRANKSTER broken over three lines.The was sold for $506,500.
Other notable lots were
- Lot 221: Julio Le Parc, Continual Mobile Transparent. Estimate: $100,000-150,000. Result: $230,500
- Lot 160: Félix Gonzáles-Torres, untitled (Warm Water). Estimate: $60,000-80,000. Result: $104,500
- Lot 150: Christopher Wool, untitled. Estimate: $70,000-90,000. Result: $98,500
- Lot 242: Philip Pearlstein, model in Kimono on Eames Chair. Estimate: $40,000-50,000. Result: $62,500
- Lot 246: Alex Katz, Red Coat. Estimate: $30,000-40,000. Result: $50,000
- Lot 159: Vija Celmins, untitled portfolio. Estimate: $30,000-40,000. Result: $47,500
- Lot 101: Julian Stanczak, Frigit Light. Estimate: $15,000-20,000. Result: $43,750
- Lot 138: Bruno Romeda, untitled. Estimate: $7,000-9,000. Result: $36,250
- Lot 133: James Lee Byars, untitled. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. Result: $31,250
- Lot 182: Al Held, untitled. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. Result: $22,500
- Lot 210: Edward Ruscha, Roughly 92% Angel, But About 8% Devil. Estimate: $3,000-5,000. Result: $12,500
Results for the remainder of the lots are available on Wright’s own website www.wright20.com.
Christie’s announces that a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting will go for the gold on May 15th:
Painted with a combustive palette, Dustheads becomes an intuitive, gestural whirlwind made during the pinnacle of the artist’s practice. With an estimate of $25-35 million, Dustheads will likely break Basquiat’s record of $26.4 million, which was just achieved last November in New York. […]
An acknowledged masterpiece from a pivotal year in the artist’s career, this 1982 painting demonstrates Basquiat’s unique ability to combine raw, unabashed expressive emotion whilst displaying a draughtmanship that was unrivalled in modern painting. Housed in the same private collection for almost 20 years,Dustheads was included in the seminal exhibition of the artist’s work organized by the Fondation Beyeler, Basel in 2010 (and which later travelled to the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris) and is widely referenced in the artist’s monographs, including the cover of the catalogue to the 2006 Basquiat retrospective organized by the Fondazione La Triennale di Milano.
Josh Baer reminds us that he broke the news of this sale three months ago:
The Basquiat market seems to be continuing on its upwards trajectory. We hear that Christie’s will auction “Dustheads” from the collection of Tiqui Atencio in May with a guarantee of around $30 million. Other paintings have had offers even higher turned down. Now that the Nahmads seem to be in this market (bidding, guarantees maybe, see above) the momentum seems to strong .
$79,904,500 selling 83% by lot
Top Ten Lots:
12 ANDY WARHOL, Mao, 1973, $13,522,500
18 ANDY WARHOL, Nine Jackies, 1964, $12,402,500
8 GERHARD RICHTER, Kegel (Cone), 1985, $12,402,500
10 JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, Humidity, 1982, $10,162,500
7 JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, Self-Portrait, 1982, $4,058,500
13 ALEXANDER CALDER, The Whiffletree, circa 1936, $4,002,500
28 JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, Radium 23, 1982-1983, $3,666,500
20 ALEXANDER CALDER, Model for Rosenhof, 1953, $3,218,500
16 CADY NOLAND, Clip on Method, 1989, $1,762,500
19 JOAN MITCHELL, The Lake, 1981, $1,762,500
7 JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, Self-Portrait, 1982, $4,058,500 (record for a work on paper for this artist)
1 TAUBA AUERBACH, Untitled (Fold), 2010, $290,500
2 RASHID JOHNSON, Fly, 2011, $182,500
3 STERLING RUBY, SP 17, 2008, $626,500
6 DAN COLEN, S & M, 2010, $578,500
To rewrite Tolstoy: Happy auctions are all alike; every unhappy lot is unhappy in its own way. Last night at Christie’s, there were precious few unhappy lots. Though there seemed to be many who were unhappy with the idea of Contemporary art prices continuing to soar.
Either channeling his clients’ frustration or worrying that he might not be able to buy stock, Andrew Fabricant had a panicky moment with Judd Tully:
Caught on the stairway leading down to Christie’s exit, Fabricant let loose his take on the sale. “This is nuts,” said the seasoned dealer. “It’s some kind of weird anomaly to what’s happening in the world and I find it sickeningly disturbing. These prices set the bar higher and higher for everyone and it completely confounds the whole model.”
That was from one of the night’s winners. But those who didn’t play—and many prospective buyers sat in the audience with paddles at the ready but finding no point of entry into the frenzied bidding—like art critic Blake Gopnik, were filled with consternation. The critic resorted to high dudgeon on twitter: “As dozens of people spend millions on art at Christies, all I can think of is the Rockaways. Makes me see red … October.”
Gopnik continued to confuse the art market with art history by trying to argue with the prices: “Koons Tulips at 30M sets his record. Fancy garden ornament. His floating basketballs matter more.”
Kelly Crow spoke to others who had less complicated views:
After the sale, Warhol dealer Jose Mugrabi shook his head in awe and said, “This market is fantastic right now—if I’ve seen a sale do better than this, I can’t remember it.”
It seemed as if the the Contemporary art market at Christie’s is somehow different from the art market around it where sellers have too high expectations and buyers are mingy and guarded, unwilling to spend a penny more than necessary. At Christie’s, the bidders roared—quite literally a few times—jostled and pleaded to get in. More than once, Jussi Pylkannen ignored a colleague frantically calling out a bid with a dry, “I’ll get to you,” his eyes locked on bidders in the room.
More often than not, those bidders in the room were central figures—like Mugrabi—in the smooth functioning of the art market who were clearly being given preference. The art market is manipulated but, in its defense, the manipulation takes place out in the open as many of the deep pockets flashed their money on artists like Calder, Kline, Basquiat, Rothko, Keifer and, especially, Warhol.
In perhaps the most unexpected and significant turn of the evening, Donald Bryant’s Warhol portrait of Marlon Brando was bought by the Nahmad family. After the sale, several members of the family talked up the purchase raising the question of whether they too are now active in the Warhol market.
Here’s what Katya Kazakina got:
“I was prepared to go to $40 million,” said art dealer David Nahmad, the patriarch of the family, who won the bidding. “For me, it was the best buy of the sale.”
This quote is significant because the work was on offer at ArtBasel for $45m. Nahmad clearly saw it then and didn’t buy it. Does he think he’ll be able to get that price in a few years time effectively doubling his money? How many other Warhols will the family bid on or buy to get it there?
Clearly the art buying and selling community is taking sides. Here’s Carol Vogel’s contribution to the panorama:
Robert McClain, an art adviser, when asked what he thought of the big numbers paid for the evening’s Pop Art, replied, “Never overestimate people’s willingness to pay a premium for the obvious.”
And the answer to the question may simply be that the art market continues to expand with new buyers from around the world coming in to drive demand. This could easily be what Nahmad sees in Warhol. Vogel added this observation too:
“There’s a lot of foreign money coming in,” said Joanne Heyler, a director and chief curator of the Broad Foundation in Los Angeles. “More than ever before.”
“This Is Nuts”: Christie’s $412-Million Postwar and Contemporary Auction Stuns (Artinfo.com)
Relentless Bidding and Record Prices for Contemporary Art at Christie’s (NYTimes)
Warhol, Koons Defy Fiscal Cliff at Christie’s Record Sale (Bloomberg)
Art Prices Balloon at Christie’s $412m Sale (Wall Street Journal)