David Hockney, The Splash (1966), final price: £23,117,000, via Sotheby’s
With the bustle of LA’s numerous art fairs opening their doors across the Atlantic and all the way across the country, one could be understood for overlooking the string of auctions taking place in London this week. Yet a trio of sales went over all the same this week, testing the secondary contemporary market just as the primary market was having a test of its own in Los Angeles. The results were mixed, with a number of strong performances, but a sense of stagnation also seems to have set in over some artists, particularly with the future of British trade with Europe looking so unsteady.
The sales kicked off at Sotheby’s on Tuesday, where a 46-lot sale only saw three works going unsold, and the auction house achieving a crisp £92,488,659 final tally. A Julie Curtiss rocketed out of the gate to double estimate at £162,500. Just a few lots later, an Adrian Ghenie work topped estimate for £4,184,500, followed by a Basquiat peice that also met estimate on multiple bids, landing at £7,487,600, while a Kerry James Marshall went unsold in the next lot. Sales remained steady for the following lots, including the sale’s prized David Hockney piece, which sold shortly after meeting its low estimate of £20m, ultimately landing at £24,117,000 with fees. Yet the sale seemed to lose some of its momentum, with a number of works, including another auction highlight, an Anthropometry piece by Yves Klein just snuck to estimate on fees, finishing at £6,348,600. Even so, the sale managed to keep its pace, selling works swiftly at estimate, including a powerful Francis Bacon, Turning Figure, which quickly reached estimate but stalled to sell at a final of £7,032,000. The sale would trickle to a close on unsteady legs following the sale, rounding out the auction house’s February sales.
The following evening, Christie’s took its shot at the market, with an unsteady, underwhelming sale that marked one of its less memorable sales of late, notching a final of £56,180,434 over 55 lots with only a single lot going unsold. The sale kicked off strong with a Jordan Casteel piece besting estimates on multiples to reach final of £515,250, and worked upwards, selling a Jean Dubuffet for £2,171,250 before reaching one of the sale’s major highlights, an Andy Warhol piece that hit the low estimate and promptly sold for a final of £4,973,250. A Hockney was a strong seller a few lots later, reaching estimate for £3,251,250, as was a Sigmar Polke that sold for £3,131,250. Yet interest seemed lacking, and works rarely went beyond estimate, even a strong Basquiat that sold at £3,951,729 after some steady first bids. The sale drew to a close on another string of Warhol portraits, rounding out the sale.
The sales rounded out on Thursday evening at Phillips, where a 41-lot sale achieved a £21,418,750 final price with 6 lots going unsold. The sale opened on a work by Amoako Boafo, which smashed its estimates on multiples to reach a final of £675,000, and was followed by a powerful Tschabalala Self piece that also doubled estimate to reach £435,000 final. The sale continued at an even clip, selling the cover lot Haring at estimate for a final of £3,206,000, while another highlight, an Ed Ruscha canvas from 2014 also performed well at a £3,375,000 final.
With another set of auctions now wrapped, it should be interesting to see how markets in the U.S. respond to such unsteady readings.