Art Market report, December 23rd, 2022
Our directors arrived back from Miami for a few days in New York before jetting off to London. Art Basel Miami Beach has been, as usual, the subject of much attention after a frantic auction season here in New York that resulted in many record-shattering highs for A+ art, a surprising depth of bidding for A art, and some middling lows for the Bs.
The "Ultra Contemporaries"
Anna Weyant, Loose Screw, 2020, oil on canvas. Sold Christie's New York: $1.5 million, estimate $300,000-500,000.
The Art Newspaper's Ben Luke recently explored the fervent demand for what have been deemed "ultra contemporary artists." These painters - as they are mostly painters - are young, often without leading gallery representation or a significant critical history (if any) of exhibitions, museum acquisitions, or reviews. They set shattering prices at auction and then become increasingly sought after by collectors. Subsequently these artists inevitably get snapped up by galleries such as Gagosian (Anna Weyant and Jadé Fadojutimi) or Victoria Miro (Flora Yukhnovich).
We have frequently wondered, as Mr. Luke clearly has, what this frenzy will mean for these artists long-term. In market terms there is a surprising parity between male and female artists as well as between artists of color and white artists in this arena. The old ways of establishing prestige, however, are not dead and as the recent edition of the annual Burns Halperin report indicates, museum collecting has not shifted accordingly. Museum acquisitions of female artists peaked in 2009, while acquisitions by Black American artists peaked in 2015.
It leaves these rising art stars in an uncomfortable position. Collectors clamor for a short supply of works, driving prices ever higher and leaving these artists less likely to gain institutional recognition beyond the gallery space. Some artists have fared well in this regard: Fadojutimi has had paintings acquired by major institutions including the Tate and the Met Museum despite only having two solo public gallery shows. Despite this, Luke reports her recent booth at Frieze London with Gagosian felt rushed and not up to her usual painterly standards (the booth still sold out at reportedly £500,000 per painting).
The November Auctions
The combined total of sales this fall season for Christie's, Phillips and Sotheby's was about $1.8 billion (with fees), including the staggering $1 billion sale of the Paul Allen at Christie's.
Vincent van Gogh, Verger avec cyprès, 1888, oil on canvas. Sold Christie's New York in the Paul Allen sale: $117.8 million, estimated above $100 million.
Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen’s stunning collection, which ranged in scope from masterpieces by Botticelli to Francis Bacon, became the most expensive sale in history, raking in $1.296 billion on an estimate of $1 - 1.38 billion (before fees).
Each lot was backed by a guarantee, and a handful of lots carried pre-sale estimates of over $100 million each. In total, twenty artist records were smashed and five works did indeed sell for over $100 million, including works by Klimt ($91 million hammer, previous record $87.9 million with fees) and Van Gogh ($102 million hammer, previous record $82.5 million with fees). Records broken were wide ranging, encompassing records for Vincent Van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Lucian Freud, and Andrew Wyeth.
The most breathless moment of the night was undoubtedly watching the star lot, Paul Cezanne's La montagne Saint-Victoire inch its way above the $100 million mark to rest at $120 million - half a million dollars away from doubling the previous record for the artist, set in 1999 for a still life from the collection of John Hay Whitney (now, as then, impressive names always help sales).
Other successes of the night included Georgia O'Keefe's White Rose with Larkspur from 1927, which hammered at $23 million on a high estimate of $8 million. This did not top her record of $44.4 million (with fees) set in 2014 for her Jimson weed/White flower no 1 from 1932, but it is now second-place in her auction records at $26.7 million with its final fees. Her Autumn Leaf II, also from the Allen sale, is O'Keefe's third highest price at auction.
In addition to O'Keefe, Andrew Wyeth's masterpiece Daydream from 1980 also flew past expectations and its high estimate, hammering for $20 million and selling for ten times the low estimate of $2 million. Allen had purchased this for about $11 million.
According to The Art Newspaper, Josh Baer reportedly said in his newsletter that there could be up to twenty-five additional mega collections on the scale of the Macklowe collection that could come up for auction within the next ten years, buoying the art market for as long as there are enough collections to purchase so many high-quality works coming up for sale in a relatively short period of time.
20/21st Century Sale
Christie's 20/21st Century Evening Sales kicked off a little over a week after the Paul Allen sale with a 93% sell-through rate and a combined hammer total of $421.9 million (with fees). The sales made for a marathon evening, lasting four hours - some in-person viewers left halfway through.
In the 20th century session, there were some high highs and noticeable lows. The opening lot, Howardena Pindell's dot painting Untitled (1971), hammered down at $850,000 ($1 million with fees) on an estimate of 500,000-700,000, nearly eclipsing her top record of $1.134 million also set by Christie's earlier this year in May.
A Man Ray photograph, Noire et Blanche (1926) hammered at $3.3 million on an estimate of $1.8 - 2 million, setting the third record for photographs this year, all at Christie's. The top spot is held at $12 million by Man Ray's Violon d'Ingres (1924), sold from the Surrealist collection of Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs in May. The second record was set by Edward Steichen's The Flatiron (1905) during the Paul Allen sale, selling for $11.8 million with fees on an estimate of $2-3 million.
One low point of the evening was De Kooning's Untitled III, which failed to attract any bidding and carried an estimate in excess of $35 million. Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti cited the numerous high-quality works by De Kooning on the market this season (including a record-breaking De Kooning work on paper at Sotheby's) and the auction house admitted they now own the painting. Alex Rotter, Christie's chairman for Post-War and Contemporary told Artnet that there had already been a handful of inquires about the painting following the failed sale.
Another disappointment was the much-hyped Basquiat portrait of Sugar Ray Robinson that had pride of place in the contemporary display galleries. Expected around the same estimate as the De Kooning, in excess of $35 million, the painting instead hammered down at $28.2 million.
The 21st Century sale opened with spirited bidding for Jaune Quick-to-Smith's I See Red: Talking to Ancestors (1994) which opened at $55,000. It quickly jumped to six figures and hammered at $510,000 on an estimate of $80,000-100,000. Bidding was also lengthy for the popular Salman Toor, whose 4 Guests (2019) incited a three-minute-long bidding war, according to The Art Newspaper, and hammered at $680,000, which was an incredible $500,000 over its high estimate.
Records were set for both Rashid Johnson and Noah Davis. Johnson's abstract Surrender Painting 'Sunshine' (2022) hammered at $2.45 million on a high estimate of $800,000. Davis' Conga #7 (2014) hammered at its high estimate of $1.2 million. With fees, it totaled $1.5 million, going for over three times the record price set for his work in 2021 ($475,000), also at Christie's.
Another hot name that did well was Anna Weyant. Her Loose Screw (2020) was estimated at $300,000-500,000 and hammered at $1.2 million, bought by the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa who is most known for buying the most expensive Basquiat ever at auction for $110 million in 2017. (Then, that was the most expensive sale by an American artist at auction, which is now dwarfed by the $195 million paid for Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn earlier this year and doesn't seem so impressive following the Paul Allen sale.) Weyant was also recently the focus of a solo show at Gagosian, where prices are rumored around $300,000-600,000 for paintings and $20,000-40,000 for drawings.
The auction house also indicated that sales by women whose works sold for $1 million or more is up 70% since 2019 (it does not give exact figures of how many female artists this indicates in reality - it is likely not a huge number).
David Solinger Collection
Sotheby's answer to the Paul Allen collection at Christie's was the David Solinger sale; the first non-Whitney family member to become president of the eponymous museum, Solinger amassed an impressive collection of 20th century art.
Incredibly, no lots in the Solinger sale were backed by guarantees and all lots sold, with 11 of 23 lots going above their high estimates; the sale hammered in at $113.6 million on an estimate range of $86.7 - $118 million.
Jean Arp's pink limestone sculpture Fruit méchant from 1936 kicked off the sale with energetic bidding. It ultimately hammered at $2 million, almost three times its high estimate of $700,000.
Both other sculptures in the sale also fared very well. Alberto Giacometti's Trois hommes (1952) sold for $5 million above its high estimate; it is the only hand-painted version of this famous casting. Alexander Calder's mobile Sixteen Black with a Loop went for $8.4 million with fees to an Asian collector, more than doubling its high estimate.
The prize of Solinger's collection was unquestionably Willem de Kooning's 1950 collage, which Solinger bought in 1952 from Sidney Janis. The work on paper hasn't been seen publicly since and it even still has thumbtacks embedded in the paint. It hammered at $29 million over an estimate of $18 - 25 million, becoming the most expensive work on paper for the artist.
Modern Evening Auction
Pablo Picasso, Guitare sur un table, 1919, oil on canvas. Sold Sotheby's New York as part of the William Paley collection, $37 million, estimate upon request.
Some lots in the modern sales came from the collection of William Paley, the founder of CBS and a long-time trustee of MoMA, whose collection had been on loan to the museum for a number of years. The proceeds from the sale went to founding a digital initiative at the museum.
Unlike the Solinger sale, almost half of the 44 lots in Modern Evening Auction had guarantees and 21 carries irrevocable bids. Overall, the sale brought in a $220 million hammer price, just shy of the estimated $232 to 287.5 million range. Only 36 out of the 44 lots were sold during the auction, with works by Schiele, Rodin, Degas, and Camille Pissarro all passed. The energy petered out towards the end of the night, resulting in only five bids across the last eight lots, four of which failed to sell.
Henry Moore's Reclining Figure (Festival) from 1951 was meant to be a high point of the night. Moore was approached by Arts Council England to make the sculpture for the 1951 Festival of Britain and he later considered it one of his most important works. It was expected to shatter records, carrying the highest ever estimate for Moore’s work and for a piece of British sculpture ($30 - 40 million). It hammered at $27.5 million, a high result for the sale, but a disappointment based on its estimate.
Works that fared well included the opening lot, Elaine de Kooning's Charge (1960), which sold for $850,000 ($1 million with fees) on a top estimate of $600,000, setting a new auction record for the artist. Another record was broken by Piet Mondrian's classic De Stijl Composition No. II from 1930, which sold for $48 million and just edged above the $50 million estimate with fees.
From the Paley collection, a small gem from Picasso's Cubist period, Guitare sur un table (1919), went for $32 million on a high estimate of $25 million. While not a staggering result for a work by Picasso by any means, it is the highest price paid at auction for a Cubist work of this period and one of the most vibrant examples.
The Now Evening Sale
One of Sotheby's newest sales, the Now Evening Sale, had its second iteration with 60 lots on offer and brought in a total of $276.9 million, a result slightly above low estimate. Designed to capture the continued interest in the ultra-contemporary and contemporary markets, several records were set during the night, many for female artists.
Artists records included Salman Toor, who also sold well at Christie's. His Four Friends (not to be mistaken for his 4 Guests sold at Christie's) sold $1.6 million with fees, no doubt bolstered by its promotional use and inclusion in his Whitney Museum survey in 2020. Christina Quarles and Elizabeth Peyton also both set new records with their figurative works and art market darlings Lucy Bull and Anna Weyant also did not disappoint with their results. Another newcomer to the market, the Colombian artist María Berrío also performed well, with her large painting Three Harbingers hammering at close to double the $500,000 high estimate at $920,000.
Contemporary Evening Auction
Andy Warhol, White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times), 1963, silkscreen ink and graphite on primed canvas. Sold Sotheby's New York, $85.3 million, estimate upon request.
At the following Contemporary Evening Auction, Andy Warhol's monumental twelve-feet tall White Disaster (White Car Crash 19 Times) from 1963 was by far the most expensive lot of the night in an otherwise lower energy sale, selling for $74 million ($85 million with fees).
The sale also broke the record for Barbara Kruger just set by Christie's last November. Her Untitled (My face is your fortune) was estimated at $600,000 - 800,000 and hammered at $1.25 million with fees. Other records were broken for the legendary assemblage artist Betye Saar and sculptor Carol Bove, fresh off her recent success with David Zwirner at fairs like Frieze and a recent solo show in their Paris gallery.
Other works that performed well included Ed Clark's Blue Splash (1967), which sold $882,000 on an estimate of $200,000-300,000; Josef Albers' Homage to the Square in Green Frames (1963), went for $2 million with fees on estimate of $900,000 - 1.2 million; the late Ernie Barnes also continue to see a buoyant market: his The Tune Smith sold at $630,000 with feels, double its estimate $200,000-300,000.
Another note of interest is the inclusion of François-Xavier Lalanne's Troupeau de Moutons de Laine, which was estimated at $1.8 - 2.5 million and sold 3.1 million with fees. About three weeks later, Christie's held the first-ever dedicated Lalanne sale in the US, which raked in $77 million and sold for more than 300% above the low estimate, showing a strong interest in design pieces on the market as well.
María Berrío, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, 2015, mixed media collage on canvas. Sold Phillips New York, $1.6 million, estimate $500,000-700,000.
Phillips have also released their year-end totals and they are up slightly on last year, selling $1.3 billion worth of art this year, compared to $1.2 billion in 2021. The 2022 total also includes $250 million worth of private sales not generated in public auctions.
Their modern and contemporary evening sale just crossed the low estimate with a total hammer price of $115 million, a combined $138.9 million with fees, which is on par for the equivalent sale held in 2021.
Cy Twombly's Bacchus (2005) led the night as the most expensive lot, even though it sold for a relatively lackluster $36 million hammer price on an estimate of $35-45 million. Other works by leading artists performed under estimate, including works by Magritte, de Kooning, and Mark Bradford. One artist that did perform well from this category was Robert Motherwell, whose Open No. 25: In Blue with Variations came to $2.3 million with fees on an estimate of $900,000 - 1.2 million.
Though these higher value lots from more established artists didn't perform as well as hoped, the stars of the night were familiar names. Anna Weyant's literally cheeky Bum (2022) hammered at $310,000 ($390,600 with fees), just above high estimate, and Alex Katz's large triptych from 1982, The Grey Dress hammered just on its high estimate of $1.8 million. María Berrío continued to do very well, her He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not sold for $1.3 million (2015), nearly doubling the top estimate of $700,000. Ever-popular artists including Rashid Johnson Lauren Quin, Lucy Bull, Ernie Barnes, and Yayoi Kusama all had lots that performed well.
Art Basel Miami Beach
Agnes Martin, Untitled #14, 1998, Sold at Pace Gallery's booth, Art Basel Miami Beach for around $7 million.
One of the most interesting pieces of news to come out of the fair circuit was that the head of Art Basel, Marc Spiegler, would be stepping down; he will be replaced by Noah Horowitz as CEO following Horowitz's year-long stint as Worldwide Head of Gallery and Private Dealer Services at Sotheby's, a role which the auction house created for him.
Additionally, the fourth head of TEFAF in three years has been announced. Bart Drenth, a former management consultant for cultural institutions will take the helm.
Like the auctions, the pace of Art Basel Miami Beach was less frenetic than in years past. The parties were as raucous and numerous as ever, but sales were more considered and slower-paced. Some gallery staff came with a "wait and see" mentality, unsure of how strong the market would be following the auctions and the wider economic outlook.
Though Marc Glimcher from Pace Gallery was one gallerist with a cautious mindset, Pace nonetheless managed to sell Agnes Martin's Untitled #14 (1998) for a reported $7 million. They also sold a Warhol Flowers painting from 1964 as well as works by Loie Hollowell and Adrian Ghenie. Exact prices have not been reported and it remains unclear if any of these were presold before the fair.
Jack Shaiman sold a Kerry James Marshall painting from 1997 for just under $3 million while Hauser & Wirth sold a new Mark Braford piece for $2.5 million. Hauser & Wirth also reported sales between $3 million and $7 million for works by Philip Guston and George Condo, while artists such as Ed Clark and Rashid Johnson sold for prices between five- to six-figures until $1 million.
Thaddeus Ropec sold a George Baselitz and Xavier Hufkins a Tracey Emins painting, both under $1.5 million, while David Zwirner continued its streak of success with Carol Bove, reportedly the most expensive work sold by Zwirner. Perrotin sold works by Hernan Bas and White Cube works by Theaster Gates, both under $600,000.