After a marathon of sales this evening, running through a heavy first snowfall of the year in New York, the Contemporary and Post-War Evening Sales are a wrap, closing out the year on a high note. Over the course of two consecutive evenings, the auction houses orchestrated a smooth-running series of sales that saw a number of major records fall, and a number of strong results.
Sales began Wednesday night at Sotheby’s where an impressively run pair of sales totaling 65 lots only saw two works go unsold, taking the auction house on a run to over $375.9 million. Kicking out of the gate with a strong offering of works from the collection of David Teiger, which included a striking Peter Doig that sold for a final price of $9,105,200, as well as a flowing, effortless Willem de Kooning that finished at a final of $9,331,000. The main sale kicked off strong with a Henry Taylor resetting the artist’s auction record at $975,000, followed close behind by one of the evening’s trophies, a Gerhard Richter that sold on multiple bids to a final of $33,604,500.
Georgia O’Keefe performed quite well, as one work brought a final of $6,169,800, while a second work met estimate to a final of $13,282,500. Jacob Lawrence was also a surprise from the evening’s sale, his work The Businessmen smashing past estimate to set his auction record at $6,169,800. Another highlight came from Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose Pollo Frito sold for a final of $25,701,500. All and all, it was a smoothly run sale, with little turbulence pushing the sale’s final tally to its conclusion.
This evening, proceedings began at Phillips, where a well-appointed sale saw somewhat unsteady results with a few major hiccups on the way. The sale achieved a final tally of $90,787,000, with 5 of 41 lots going unsold.
It opened with an early highlight, a Joan Miró that met estimate to achieve a strong $22,590,000 final price, while another major lot, an Alberto Burri piece, went unsold. Even so, the pace continued to be steady, winding through a series of works with little other turbulence. A Jean-Michel Basquiat performed well, achieving a final at estimate of $8,977,500, while a Mark Rothko just topped estimate to a $4,215,000 final. Yet the sale saw a second letdown when a star lot, an impressive Jackson Pollock, failed to find a buyer and went unsold. The sale wound down from there, reaching its conclusion with few other major sales, or major letdowns, save a new auction record for Cuban artist Carmen Herrera at $2,655,000.
Attention then turned to Christie’s, where a 50 lot offering drew the week’s proceedings to a close in style, seeing 6 of 50 lots go unsold while racing to a final price of $357,622,500, driven by the record sale of David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist.
The sale opened with a bit of instability, as Philip Guston’s Window beat estimate six times over to a final of $3,132,500, while a Bruce Nauman neon was a pass in the next lot. A Calder followed close behind, however, and doubled estimate to a final of $17,975,000, a strong price for the artist. A Francis Bacon also performed well, reaching estimate and selling for $21,687,500. Shortly after, the David Hockney shot out of the gate to $70 million, ultimately selling after sustained bidding for a final price of $90,312,500, a price that netted him records for his own work, and a record for the most expensive piece of work by a living artist.
The sale continued on after this historical moment, as another record for Sam Gilliam was set at $2,172,500, and a Mark Rothko achieved a strong price of $36,312,500. Another Calder made for a strong outing this evening for the artist, selling above estimate for a final of $9,312,500, while a Pierre Soulages reset the artist’s auction record at $11,000,000.
The sales have concluded for the year, with dealers and auctioneers looking to 2019 for the next big test of market health.
— D. Creahan
Sotheby’s Sale from the Collection of David Teiger [Sotheby's]
Sotheby’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale [Sotheby's]
Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale [Christie's]
Phillips Auctions 20th Century and Post-War Sale [Phillips]