Leonora Carrington and Joan Mitchell Lead Exceptional Results for Women Artists

Leonora Carrington and Joan Mitchell Lead Exceptional Results for Women Artists

Five art auctions achieved $635.4 million during this week’s New York Sales, with new records set by several modern and contemporary women artists.
Five art auctions achieved $635.4 million during this week’s New York Sales, with new records set by several modern and contemporary women artists.

T he New York Sales realized $635.4 million in total across five superb auctions this week. Works by women artists represented nearly 30% of the lots sold across the evening auctions and made up 23% of this week’s total value – compared to just five years ago, when 19.5% of the works sold in the two evening sales were by women artists, representing 6.9% of overall value in May 2019.

Joan Mitchell’s quartet of works (led by Noon, which sold for $22.6 million), had a 100% sell-rate, altogether realizing $45.2 million. In a standout, record-breaking moment during the Modern Evening Auction, Leonora Carrington’s Les Distractions de Dagobert sold for $28.5 million following a 10-minute bidding battle that smashed Carrington’s previous auction record, set at Sotheby’s in 2022 ($3.3 million). The new owner, Eduardo F. Costantini, founder of Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, remarked that Carrington’s whimsical depiction of King Dagobert I is “one of the most admired works in the history of surrealism and an unparalleled masterpiece of Latin American art.”

The Week at a Glance

The spring auction season began on Monday evening with Sotheby’s contemporary art double feature. Auctioneer Phyllis Kao kicked off the night with The Now Evening Auction, whose inaugural lot set the tone for an evening full of competitive bidding and impressive results: Justin Caguiat’s The saint is never busy incited a nearly seven-minute-long bidding war driven by eight vying collectors, culminating in a new auction record for the artist when his work sold for $1.1 million, tripling its $300,000 high estimate. In all, the 16 lots sold totaled $34.7 million, with 50% of the works selling above their high estimates.

Four of Joan Mitchell's Abstract Masterpieces Sell for $45.2 Million at Auction

Chairman and head auctioneer Oliver Barker then took the rostrum for The Contemporary Evening Auction, which saw 34 lots sell for a combined total of $234.6 million, a 40% increase on last May’s $167 million result. The top lot of the evening was Francis Bacon’s Portrait of George Dyer Crouching, which sold for $27.7 million during its auction debut after residing in the same collection since 1970. Another highlight of the evening was the record-setting sale of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled from the famed series created by the duo between 1983-85, which sold for $19.4 million.

It was a night full of standout moments for women artists, including a new auction record for Faith Ringgold during her evening auction debut; her work Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s: The French Collection Part II, #10 sold for three times her previous record at $1.6 million. A record-setting result was achieved for Lucy Bull’s work 16:10, which sold for $1.8 million after a thrilling bidding-war between eight bidders. Similarly enthralling was the competition for Yayoi Kusama’s The Pacific Ocean, which lasted for six minutes and eventually sold at a price of $4.7 million, tripling its $1.5 million high estimate.

By the end of the night, the sales from the contemporary art double feature totaled $267.3 million, which is a year-over-year increase of 30% compared to last May’s Contemporary Evening and Now Evening auctions. The contemporary sales continued on Tuesday with a 329-lot Contemporary Day Auction that achieved $78.7 million, led by Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North ($3.2 million).

Wednesday night’s Modern Evening Auction continued the year-over-year increase in total revenue established by the contemporary auctions. By the final gavel, sales totaled $235.1 million, with eight works selling in excess of $10 million. The top lot of the evening was Claude Monet’s Meules à Giverny, the artist’s final depiction of large haystacks in his famous 1890-91 series. The only haystack remaining in private hands inspired an eight-minute, three-way battle that resulted in a $34.8 million sale, well above the high estimate. It was a fantastic night for Impressionism, with eight additional Impressionist works from the collection of an important American estate selling for a combined total of $47 million.

Bidding Battle Hits Record-Breaking $28.5 Million for Leonora Carrington’s Surrealist Masterpiece

The surrealist series in The Modern Evening Auction achieved similarly tremendous results with 100% selling, surpassing the combined high estimate. The momentum for women artists was furthered by the impressive results of Remedios Varo ($4.2 million) and Leonor Fini ($444,500), both selling above their high estimates. Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s evening sale debut yielded similarly strong results ($889,000). Closing out the highly anticipated series on Thursday was the 264-lot Modern Day Auction, which resulted in $52.3 million.

Top 10 Lots from The New York Sales

Contemporary Art Auction Results

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