Sales resumed for New York’s fall auction weeks yesterday evening, as a Sunday sale at Phillips combined early 20th Century works and contemporary artists in a brisk sale that began strong but stumbled towards the later half of the sale, as 9 of 52 lots ultimately went unsold, achieving a final tally of $66.9 million (just within estimate).
So often focused around recent contemporary works and occasional flirtations with post-war works, the auction house’s curatorial focus seems to be increasingly deep in these sales, pairing the familiar Christopher Wool works with a rarely seen Kazuo Shiraga, or a swirling Morris Louis with Robert Gober. The result is a sale that feels refreshingly focused compared with the blockbuster auctions happening nearby. In fact, the sale saw a heavy focus on Japanese artists, which offered an intriguing counterpoint to the often American-heavy focus of New York auction, but the evening’s bidders refused to jump for the works. Yayoi Kusama kicked off the sale with a 2004 Infinity Nets work, which beat estimate for a final of $1,234,100, following strong competition among three bidders, while Shiraga’s blurry vortex unfortunately failed to sell. Other works from the collection saw similarly mixed results.
The sale began with a strong series of lots, with the Kusama giving way to a strong final price for a Michelangelo Pistoletto mirror work ($2,242,100), while a John Chamberlain, one of the night’s top lots, however failed to find a buyer, making it the first pass of the evening. It was followed by a Morris Louis that also performed to expectations, selling for $2,130,100, and an Anish Kapoor that hit within estimate for $1,122,100. Other early lots included a striped Rudolf Stingel that achieved $1,570,100, within estimate, and a Robert Gober that sold just within estimate for $2,074,100, as well as a Christopher Wool that performed similarly against the estimate, just reaching the $3 million low estimate for a final of $3,026,100, and a Calder mobile that sold within estimate for $3,810,100.
The evening’s top lot, Willem de Kooning’s untitled work from 1977 saw strong competition, reaching the low estimate and selling immediately to the tune of $11,202,100. Several lots later, a rare Le Corbusier painting achieved its $4 million low estimate and brought a final of $4,482,100, setting a new auction record for the artist. The sale continued to move deliberately, as a Giorgio de Chirico sold below estimate for a final of $3,810,100, and a Maurizio Cattelan followed up within estimate for a $1,122,100 final.
The evening concluded after a number of passes, as Tauba Auerbach’s Fold works brought $1,445,000, under estimate, and a Wade Guyton met expectations to a $2,405,000 final in the next lot. Sales will continue tonight, as Christie’s gets its first shot at the November auction season.