S otheby’s New York got 2024 off to a thrilling start with a diverse triple-header of marquee auctions and exhibitions in Visions of America and Masters Week. These two strands each presented an expert edit of thrilling treasures, spanning unique one-off icons of human achievement, American history and the giants of Old Master art.
Attracting bidders and exhibition visitors from around the world, the combined sales exceeded $173 million, firmly restating Sotheby’s position as the ultimate destination for discerning collectors.
Take a look inside Masters Week at Sotheby's in New York City
The auctions clearly indicated the market is primed for timeless American stories. An original twelve-bottle case of Pappy Van Winkle’s 20 Year Old Family Reserve RNM Restaurant Single Barrel bourbon sold for $162,500 – making it one of the most valuable lots of Van Winkle ever to sell at auction, a historical moment for whiskey collectors.
And it was American history that was honored in the Visions of America sales. The series of ten auctions took place between 12-19 January, telling the story of a nation through American fine, decorative and folk arts, furniture, fashion, letters, books and more. And fittingly, bidders responded enthusiastically. The scope and quality of the lots on offer, was exemplified in works such as Hiawatha’s Marriage by Edmonia Lewis, an exquisite sculpture by a female artist of African-American and Native American heritage, which was sold in the Marquee sale Art of America for $1.6 million, over four times its high estimate.
Guest Curator Thom Browne Talks American Design with Sotheby’s | Visions of America
Further gems were found in The Western Art & Design from Bar Cross Ranch, Wyoming sale, where a Sketchbook of Drawings by Etahdleuh Doanmoe (Kiowa, 1856-1888) sold for $825,500. Composed of 24 drawings across 33 pages, this lot more than doubled the world record price for a piece of Plains ledger art.
Capturing the Spirit of the American West: Bar Cross Ranch Art & Design at Sotheby's
The same sale sparked a five-way bidding battle for the Arapaho Child’s Robe with Incised and Painted Box-and-Border Design. After several minutes of bidding going back and forth across the phones and online, the piece sold for $317,500 – over nine times its high estimate.
The next day, the energy continued for the Important Americana sale, a diverse array of furniture, folk art and more. Selling for over $1 million was the “Acme of Perfection” Tea Table, one of the most important pieces of furniture to survive from Colonial America. The table exemplifies the mastery of design and craft from its creator, the “Garvan High Chest” carver. Also in this sale was the highest-valued Chinese export lot to be offered in January 2024. The exterior of the Chinese Export ‘Hong’ Punch Bowl depicts a scene of the hongs at Canton by the Pearl River, with the interior decorated with florals and an elaborate border. This stunning piece captivated bidders, eventually selling for $88,900.
Rounding out the week was the Concierge auction of the La Dune Estate, one of the most spectacular oceanfront properties in the Hamptons. Purchased for $88.5 million, the beautiful estate is home to two residences, a tennis court, and of course, the breathtaking beach and ocean view.
Masters Week, presented in partnership with Qatar Executive, featured 11 auctions, covering a wealth of extraordinary works of art and objects, dating back to the 1300s, through to the end of the 20th century. Sales focused on tightly-curated sequences and some of the most important Old Master collections in the world.
How Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s Painting Conquered Europe
A Scholar Collects featured an outstanding array of paintings and drawings by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, one of the premier portraitists of the French Revolution. Of the 12 pieces by the artist, 10 exceeded their high estimates. The star lot of the sale, the Self-Portrait In Traveling Costume – executed by the artist shortly after she had, with her 9-year-old daughter and the child’s governess, fled revolutionary Paris for Italy in the autumn of 1789 – sold for nearly $3.1 million, setting an all-time auction record for a work on paper by a woman artist.
Standing at over seven feet tall, the 16th century panel of Saint Agricius of Trier and Saint Anno of Cologne by Master of the Agilolphus Altar, was an exciting highlight in the Master Paintings & Sculpture Part 1 sale. After a bidding war across the phones and live in the auction room, this piece eventually sold at over twice the high estimate ($1.1 million). The auction came to a close with Gustav Bauernfeind’s awe-inspiring painting, The Western Wall, hammering down at nearly $3.5 million.
The Hope Cup | A Magnificent Gold Vase by Jean-Valentin Morel
Meanwhile, The One sale celebrated exceptional unique cultural achievements past and present from rare sculpture and stamps to storied game-worn sneakers. The Hope Cup, for instance, a magnificent gold, enamel and hardstone vase created by Jean-Valentin Morel in 1855 depicting the story of Perseus and Andromeda, sold for over $2.1 million to a world-renowned institution – a fitting home for a sculptural piece flawless in its workmanship and artistry.
In vivid contrast, the auction’s top selling lot was A Set of 6 Michael Jordan ‘Championship Clinching’ Game Worn Air Jordan Sneakers. Known as “The Dynasty Collection”, these 6 sneakers were given to a Chicago Bulls executive at the conclusion of each of Jordan’s NBA Championship victories, an incredible athletic feat. Fetching over $8 million, the lot set a new global auction record for game-worn sneakers.
With quality, rarity, significance and history coalescing in this record-breaking series of 21 sales, Visions of America and Masters Week have kicked off the start of an incredible year – with so much more to come.