NEW YORK, 1 July 2020 – Sotheby’s marquee June sales of Contemporary Art and Impressionist & Modern Art concluded yesterday in New York, achieving $431.3 million across a series of five auctions that was a strong 85% sold by lot and set 14 world auction records.
Sotheby’s spring Day Sales totaled $91.8 million, including our live auctions on 29 & 30 June as well as our first-ever online Day Sales that were held in May, with more than 10 works achieving $1 million or more.
Charles Stewart, Sotheby’s CEO, commented: “These unprecedented times demand innovation, and Sotheby’s delivered this week with a groundbreaking series of auctions. Whether we evaluate these sales through the lens of historical comparisons, or with an eye towards the future of Sotheby’s, or as a barometer for the global art market, or against the backdrop of the global pandemic, the results are simply extraordinary. Thinking back to February and March, it’s difficult to capture the magnitude and dimensions of what our global teams have been able to accomplish – the 100+ auctions we have held across fine art and luxury in recent months demonstrate strong market leadership. We are incredibly proud to have delivered on behalf of our clients and the larger industry, who have been eager for proof that the market remains healthy. And these results leave no doubt.”
CONTEMPORARY ART DAY AUCTION
30 June 2020
Auction Total $51.5 Million83.3% Sold by Lot
Nicole Schloss, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Day Auctions of Contemporary Art in New York, commented: “Building on the success of our inaugural Online Day Sale for Contemporary Art in May, we were very pleased to see such a confident and enthusiastic response from collectors in our return to a live Day Sale yesterday. The sale continued the success for a group of distinguished private collections that have featured throughout our sales this week, and we saw lively and active bidding at all levels of the market. Led by a sensational painting by the late Robert Ryman as well as remarkable examples by George Condo, Ruth Asawa, and Keith Haring, the top prices achieved today reflect the full breadth and depth of the contemporary category.”
Max Moore, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Day Auctions of Contemporary Art in New York, said: “Yesterday’s Day Sale continued to set new records and benchmarks for emerging and fresh to market artists including Derek Fordjour, Titus Kaphar, and Kehinde Wiley. It is exciting to see the market respond so enthusiastically to an increasingly diverse range of artists—there were also strong results for Noah Davis, Simone Leigh, and Charles Gaines—and as the market continues to expand, we look forward to breaking new ground with more artist records and auction debuts in the future.”
Our Spring Day sales were led by Robert Ryman’s Contract from 1998, which sold for $2.7 million (estimate $3/4 million). The work is an elegant articulation of the artist’s career-long investigation of the possibilities, limitations, and truths of abstract painting. Ryman’s monochrome palette of white paint allows the artist to fully explore its varied possibilities and properties: color, texture, density, light, and reflectivity. Different light conditions and times of day change every interaction with the work, making it extraordinarily visceral and enticing.
Executed circa 1956, Ruth Asawa's Untitled (S.853) achieved $2.7 million (estimate $2/3 million). A masterfully constructed lattice of mesmerizing interlocking forms, the work is an archetypal example of her revered wire sculptures. While Asawa had initially made wire sculptures inspired by baskets she observed on a trip to Mexico in 1947, she created her most ambitious wire works in the mid-1950s. Suspended effortlessly in the air, this sculpture recalls the splendor of forms found in nature - cocoons, sonic waves and the quality of light filtered through a canopy.
SOTHEBY’S IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART DAY SALE
29 June 2020
Auction Total $16.7 Million83% Sold by Lot
Scott Niichel, Co-Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Department and Head of Day Sales in New York, commented: “Monday’s sale offered something for every taste. We saw a great depth of bidding for nearly every genre within our diverse collecting field, from early Impressionist drawings and paintings to Modern and Surrealist paintings and sculpture. We continue to see robust demand for Latin American artists, as illustrated by the excellent prices achieved for Rufino Tamayo, José Clemente Orozco and Cundo Bermúdez. We were further honored to be entrusted with a terrific consignment from the San Diego Museum of Art, which achieved excellent results that will support the Museum’s acquisition fund. We successfully sourced and sold two substantial Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale auctions during this extraordinary season, in addition to a broader series of online auctions within this category, and our results signal not only serious demand among new and seasoned collectors, but also the enduring health and strength of our overall market.”
Monday’s Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale achieved the auction’s highest sell-through rate since May 2014. Together with our first-ever Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale Online in May, the spring sales realized an overall total of $26.6 million. Attracting an average of three bidders for every lot sold, the auctions saw competition from more than 40 countries, with nearly 20% of all buyers new to Sotheby’s.
Monday’s sale was led by Paul Delvaux’s dream-like canvas L’Impératrice, which sold to an online bidder for $1.2 million (estimate $1/1.5 million). Though he refused any formal association with Surrealism, Paul Delvaux was deeply inspired by the imaginative art of Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst and fellow Belgian René Magritte, and he created a rich body of work renowned for dream-like figural images featuring classical motifs. Painted in 1974 in his native Brussels, “L’Impératrice” is a characteristically mysterious neo-classical scene and represents the first major oil by the artist to appear at auction in over two years. .
Works by Latin American artists achieved a number of top prices in the auction, led by Rufino Tamayo’s Personajes en rosa, which realized $716,000 (estimate $700/900,000).Painted in the early 1980s, the work reveals the psychological connection between two figures whose disconnected posture and gaze present themselves as equal parts of a unit. In addition, José Clemente Orozco’s La Cantina from 1941, fetched $596,000 (estimate $600/8000,000). The work was offered from the Vanguard Spirit: Modern and Surrealist Masterworks from an Important Estate, which totaled $30.2 million in total across this week’s sales series. In La Cantina, Orozco revisits a theme that preoccupied his first years of painting, depicting the desperation of Mexico’s lower classes during the Revolutionary years.
Further highlights of the sale included Marc Chagall’s late work on paper, Rêve d'amour, which sold for $596,000, surpassing its pre-sale high estimate of $450,000; and Tamara de Lempicka’s post-war still life, Plante grasse et fiole, which also achieved $596,000 (estimate $400/600,000). The sale also saw two new artist records achieved for Jonathan Winters and Anna Guntner.