S otheby's premier autumn auction week saw high bids and heated battles for works by top Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary artists. Overall, it was a lively week in New York, marked by an exhibition of masterful works and a number of new artist records.
Impressionist & Modern Art Sales
W orks by Claude Monet, Gustave Caillebotte and Paul Signac led the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 12 November, which saw an auction total of $208.9 million. Some especially animated bidding moments came with the auction of Claude Monet's Charing Cross Bridge and Alberto Giacometti's Buste d'homme (Diego au blouson).
A splendid example of Claude Monet’s oeuvre, the Impressionistic Charing Cross Bridge sold for $27.6 million; created in 1903, the artwork is part of the artist’s renowned London series. Steeped in fog and refracted light, the canvas features two trains passing over the railway bridge, billowing thick clouds of steam from the engines. Underneath the bridge, two small boats dot the river, alluding to the industrial hub that lies just out of frame.
Alberto Giacometti's bronze sculpture Buste d'homme (Diego au blouson) ultimately exceeded its high estimate by over $6 million to sell for $14.3 million. Conceived circa 1953, the sculpture is considered Giacometti's most formally radical and visually engaging work of art. The model for the work was Giacometti's younger brother Diego, who inspired numerous variations on the theme of head and bust sculptures of the 1950s and whose physiognomic similarity to his brother invested these projects with an autobiographical narrative.
The Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale on 13 November achieved $53.3 million, led by an early work from Vincent van Gogh entitled Paysan brûlant de mauvaises herbes, as well as Claude Monet's Étretat, coucher de soleil.
Contemporary Art Auctions
O n the strength of Abstract Expressionist masterworks by Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still, as well as new artist records for Wayne Thiebaud and Charles White, the Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 14 November totaled $270.6 million.
The expressionistic Untitled XXII by Willem de Kooning achieved $30.1 million, the top price of the evening. The nonfigurative painting work is an exemplar of de Kooning's abstract visual vocabulary and demonstrates the artist's interest in natural landscapes.
To applause, Charles White’s Ye Shall Inherit the Earth achieved $1.8 million, eclipsing the artist’s previous auction record of $509,000. Completed in 1953, the charcoal illustration is a poignant embodiment of the civil rights cause; the work depicts the figure of Rosa Lee Ingram, an African-American woman who, along with her two sons, was accused of killing a neighboring farmer – a white sharecropper who'd abused the family for years. The ensuing capital punishment case captivated the country, proving to be a key moment in civil rights activism.
Clyfford Still's quintessential masterwork of Abstract Expressionism, PH-399 sold for $24.3 million following a lively round of bidding. Completed in 1946, a pivotal year for the Abstract Expressionist movement, the painting marks the realization of Still’s signature style. Within PH-399, the limitless ground, rugged silhouettes and saturated hues of the artist’s mature production are fully expressed, creating a composition at once explosive and elegant, raw and refined.
A work by Kerry James Marshall, entitled Vignette 19, surpassed the high estimate by nearly $11 million to sell for $18.5 million. Executed in 2014, Vignette 19 belongs to the artist’s celebrated series of Vignette paintings; the work explores and celebrates the ordinary romance of three black couples and in doing so, demonstrates the glaring absence of black figures from the history of Western painting.
To see results of the Contemporary Art Day Auction, please visit the sale page.