AO Auction Recap – New York: Christie’s Post-War and Modern Evening Sale, May 17th, 2017

May 18th, 2017

Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan (1962), via Christie's

Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan (1962), via Christie’s

The week’s long stream of major auction sales saw another strong outing by Christie’s last night, with the auction house cruising through a 71 lot outing to reach a final tally of $448.1 million with only a handful of pieces going unsold.  The sale, which saw an overwhelming push from American buyers, meets early rumblings about a recovering market, and hints at continued growth over the coming months.The sale opened with a series of steady bids, moving procedurally through the early lots of the evening, before a Cy Twombly painting at lot 6 picked up some steam and cruised to a final price of $52,887,500, bid on by Larry Gagosian, and setting a tone of cautious but tangible interest from buyers towards the sale’s blockbuster pieces.  A Francis Picabia beat estimate a few lots later for a final of $3,367,500, while an Andy Warhol also shot past its estimate on eager bids to reach a final of $18,727,500, doubling its estimate, and a Philip Guston followed close behind at $12,567,500
Sigmar Polke, via Bloomberg

Sigmar Polke, Frau mit Butterbrot (1964), via Christie’s

The sale’s next major highlight came only a few lots later, as the landmark Sigmar Polke work, Frau mit Butterbrot reached the block and sold for a solid tally of $17,047,500 after only a few bids.  A second work from post-war Germany, Gerhard Richter’s Schober also saw a decisive sale, reaching estimate for a final of $6,967,500.  A Robert Gober work set a new record for the artist shortly after, reaching a final price of $5,287,500.

Francis Bacon, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963), via Christies
Francis Bacon, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963), via Christies

Andy Warhol, Last Supper (1986), via Christie'sAndy Warhol, Last Supper (1986), via Christie’s

As the series of works from the Spiegel Collection closed, the sale shifted into its second gear, first initiated by a $10,551,500 price for a Rudolf Stingel, setting a new auction record, while Mark Grotjahn also  topped his auction record with a $16,767,500 final for a 2011 canvas.  The sale’s premiere Francis Bacon came shortly after, but stalled after only a few bids, ultimately finishing at $51,767,500, while a second Rudolf Stingel several lots later also topped the artist’s previous auction record with a final of $6,743,500.  A Picasso at lot 50 was one of the few passes of the evening.

Gerhard Richter, Schober (1984), via Christie's
Gerhard Richter, Schober (1984), via Christie’s

The sale closed out with a string of high-profile sales, after a Jean-Michel Basquiat topped estimate to reach a final of $34,967,500, while a Roy Lichtenstein met estimate to sell for a final of $28,247,500.  It was followed close behind by Andy Warhol’s Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable), which also met estimates for a strong final price of $29,367,500.  Following these, the evening cruised through its final lots, settling on an Isamu Noguchi work, which doubled estimate for a final of $4,727,500.

The sales conclude with a pair of back to back sales tomorrow evening.

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale [Christie's]
Contemporary Art Buyers Cautious After Wall Street Dips [NYT]
Christie’s Soars With Airtight, High-Grossing $448.1 M. Postwar and Contemporary Sale [Art News]
Christie’s comes out strong with $400m contemporary sale [Art Newspaper]