F ollowing up on the billion-dollar week Sotheby’s had in May – which confirmed the art market’s strength this year – this edition of The New York Sales achieved $856.3 million in sales, bringing the auction house’s yearly total for modern and contemporary art to $3.04 billion. This week’s impressive performance was bolstered by esteemed collections (including The David M. Solinger Collection, The William S. Paley Collection, The Mallin Collection and The de Kooning Family Collection), the continued rise in the valuation of work by women artists and the expanding art market across Asia.
The auctions were dominated by rare-to-market works, including several masterpieces that made their market debuts, and two of the six events held at Sotheby’s this week achieved coveted white-glove status – meaning every single lot was sold. The energetic auctions were characterized by frenzied bidding, with work by eight artists seeing gambits by more than ten bidders: Salman Toor (15 bidders), Louis Fratino (13), Julien Nguyen (13), Lucy Bull (13), Jean Arp (12), Elaine de Kooning (12), Pierre Soulages (11) and Barbara Kruger (11).
Head below the fold to see more results from an exciting week at Sotheby’s.
The New York Sales Recap
The David M. Solinger Collection23 works of modern art from the former president of The Whitney’s private collection surpassed their collective high estimate of $118 million.
The Modern Evening AuctionThe 44-lot sale was powered by dozens of works making their auction debuts or returning to market after 30 or more years.
The Modern Day Auction355 lots were offered in The Modern Day Auction, earning $56.2 million.
The Now Evening AuctionSpirited bidding set 5 new auction records for some of the hottest artists on the market.
The Contemporary Evening AuctionWarhol’s White Disaster led this sale at $85.4 million, almost a third of the auction’s total value.
The Contemporary Day AuctionSotheby’s has now raised about $400 million for charity this year, supplemented by several dozen works in this auction.
The week’s auctions began on Monday, 14 November, with two thrilling sales dedicated to modern art. Each was spurred by multiple bidding wars that featured as many as ten different bidders and saw nine artworks sell for over $10 million. Collectively, the two auctions realized $391.2 million, the third-highest such evening in Sotheby’s history, with especially strong showings from the North American and Asian markets: major works by Piet Mondrian ($51 million), Alexander Calder ($8.5 million), Joan Miró ($6.5 million) and August Rodin ($2.3 million) all went to buyers in Asia, and American collectors supplied half the total value of The Modern Evening Auction.
First up on Monday was The David M. Solinger Collection, assembled by one of New York’s most influential cultural custodians. A former President of The Whitney Museum of American Art, Solinger masterminded the development of Marcel Breuer’s extraordinary museum on Madison Avenue (now home to The Frick Madison), and played a transformative role bridging the artistic epicenters of Paris and New York City.
All but one of the 23 works comprising his collection of modern art made their auction debuts on Monday evening. All found new homes – almost two-thirds at prices well above their high estimates – with a total sale value of $137.9 million, comfortably above its $118 million high estimate.
The David M. Solinger Collection Evening Auction
Leading the collection was Collage by Willem de Kooning, whom Solinger was one the earliest collectors to support. A pivotal work, its sale at $33.6 million set a new record for a work on paper by the artist. De Kooning was one of many artists Solinger knew personally and collected intimately. Solinger first saw Alberto Giacometti’s Trois hommes qui marchent (Grand plateau) in the artist’s studio in 1951; a thrilling bidding battle saw it double its estimate, ultimately going for $30.2 million to a buyer in the room when the gavel finally struck after seven minutes.
Femme, étoiles ($17.8 million), painted by Jean Miró on one of World War II’s final days, Sixteen Black with a Loop ($8.5 million), a dynamic sculpture by Alexander Calder that saw eight bidders and a series of three works by Jean Dubuffet, led by Épisode ($5.1 million), rounded out the auction’s top five lots.
The David M. Solinger Collection continues with eight works of ancient Mesoamerican art included in the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas auction – open for bidding now and culminating in a live auction on 21 November at 2 p.m. EST.
Monday night continued with The Modern Evening Auction, featuring select examples of Impressionism, Symbolism, Abstract Expressionism and other movements in early modernism. Over half of the works in this 44-lot sale made their auction debuts, while another third returned to the market after thirty or more years, demonstrating collectors’ confidence in the demand for modern art.
The $253.3 million auction was led Piet Mondrian’s Composition No. II – a work that, when it last passed through the block in 1983, not only set an auction record for a work by Mondrian but also became the most expensive work of abstract art, period. While that $2.2 million record has long since been broken, Composition No. II again became the most valuable artwork by the seminal abstract painter when it sold to a collector in Asia for $51 million.
The evening also saw 29 works from The William S. Paley Collection sold to benefit a new acquisition fund for MoMA (among other charitable causes), a museum close to the collector’s heart. Pablo Picasso’s Guitare sur une table is a stunning example of the artist’s Cubist period, earning it a $37.1 million price tag.
Throughout the evening, women artists performed particularly well, such as when Portrait de Romana de la Salle, a painting by Art Deco portraitist Tamara de Lempicka, sold for $14.1 million and became the artist’s second most-valuable work at auction. Elaine de Kooning made her first appearance in an evening auction with Charge, which set an artist record at $1.1 million, and Remedios Varo’s Visita al cirujano plástico broke its estimate to sell for an impressive $3.1 million.
Monday’s evening auction was complemented by The Modern Day Auction on Tuesday, which earned $56.2 million across 355 offered lots.
A second double feature on Wednesday, 16 November, began with The Now Evening Auction. Highly anticipated, the auction is consistently one of the hottest events of the season, as it showcases some of the most desirable artists currently on the market. This evening was no exception, as the 22-lot sale established five new artist records: Louis Fratino ($730,800), Salman Toor ($1.6 million), Elizabeth Peyton ($2.5 million), Jacqueline Humphries ($850,500) and Carol Bove ($787,500).
At $11.9 million, Yoshitomo Nara’s Light Haze Days / Study earned over a quarter of the $45.8 million auction’s valuation. And for the second season in a row, The Now Evening Auction had a majority of works by women artists, who earned about 45 percent of the auction’s total value (compared to about 38 percent last May).
Over half of the auction’s value came from collectors in Asia, and ten lots saw deep bidding from the continent. Works by eight artists are now headed to customs: Nara, Cecily Brown ($4.5 million), Nicholas Party ($2.3 million), Avery Singer ($2.1 million), Christina Quarles ($1.6 million), Toor, María Berrío ($1.2 million) and Anna Weyant ($504,000). (Fratino and Julian Nguyen, $441,000, were the other artists who found interest in the continent’s flourishing art market.)
At the end of the feverish hour, two thirds of the lots had broken their high estimates. And with every artwork sold, it became the third consecutive white-glove Now Evening Auction.
Visitors to Sotheby’s public galleries this week were greeted with a gripping scene as they ascended the elevators: stills from a disastrous car crash, repeated 19 times, in one of Andy Warhol’s most radical and haunting works. White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times) had been held by the same collector for more than 25 years and hadn’t been on public view for 15 years until it was displayed at Sotheby’s. On Wednesday, it became one of the artist’s most valuable works at auction when it sold for an incredible $85.4 million.
In fact, the work constituted almost a third of the Contemporary Evening Auction’s $269.1 million valuation. (With The Now Evening Auction, the night’s total was $314.9 million.) Three more artist records were set – Alighiero Boetti ($8.8 million), Barbara Kruger ($1.6 million) and Betye Saar ($378,000) – making a total of eight for the evening.
Contemporary Evening Auction
As in Monday’s Modern Evening Auction, magnificently curated private collections formed the evening’s core. Three more works from The William S. Paley Collection achieved a combined $9.6 million, bringing the collection’s total to $95.9 million to date. The de Kooning Family Collection also brought to market three works making up a succinct retrospective of the artist spanning twenty years; the group was led by Untitled, which achieved $34.8 million and became the artist’s third-most valuable work at auction. Six works from The Collection of Geraldine and Harold Alden realized $20 million, led by Roy Lichtenstein’s Modern Painting with Small Bolt, which sold for $6.9 million. And four works from The Mallin Collection earned a remarkable $11 million this evening.
Wednesday’s evening auction was complemented by The Contemporary Day Auction on Thursday, which earned $94.1 million across 309 offered lots. The day sale benefited a number of charitable causes, including: works by Cecily Brown ($441,000), Katherine Bradford ($163,800) and Nicole Eisenman ($44,100) auctioned to support Planned Parenthood of Greater New York; Keith Haring’s monumental Mural for The Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, sold for nearly $1 million to benefit The Mount Sinai Hospital, New York; and several works sold to benefit The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. This year, Sotheby’s has now raised about $400 million for charity through its auctions.