Buyers’ appetite for Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art reached unprecedented new heights at Christie’s New York over the past fortnight.
On Wednesday November 12, the Post-War & Contemporary art evening sale achieved $852,887,000 (£535,986,570/ €682,309,600) – the highest total in auction history.
Warhol’s Triple Elvis and Four Marlons led the sale at $81.9 million and $69.6 million. The sale achieved strong sell-through rates of 94% by lot and 97% by value. Registrants from 43 countries competed for Abstract Expressionist, Pop and Contemporary works from some of the century’s key influential artists, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Martin Kippenberger, Cy Twombly, and Jeff Koons.
A total of 11 new world auction records were set, including records for Cy Twombly and Ed Ruscha, and four auction records were set for artist by medium. Three works sold for over $50 Million, 23 for over $10 Million, and 69 for more than $1 Million
“This was a sale of extraordinary quality and range, with every major artist represented by at least one masterwork,” said Brett Gorvy, chairman and international head of Post-War and Contemporary art. “The landmark sale result achieved tonight is a reflection of both growing global enthusiasm and demand in this category and a virtuous cycle of confidence in the art market that brings a fresh supply of exciting, high-quality works into the market with each new season.”
Steven Murphy, Christie’s chief executive officer, added: “This is truly a moment in art history. Tonight’s result is a testimony to the depth of interest in art across the globe, and to the talent of the Christie’s team. This sale may have produced an eye catching number, but record museum attendance and record art sales at Christie’s on every continent in all areas and price levels proves that enjoying works of art has become a universal pursuit in our time.”
The auction came hot on the heels of Christie’s New York auction of Impressionist and Modern art, held November 5, which realised $165.6 million. The prize lot, Manet’s Le Printemps, was bought by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles for $65,125,000 – a new world record for the artist.
The sale saw strong sell-through rates of 90% by lot and 87% by value and global participation, with auction registrants from 38 countries. Of the 39 works offered, one lot sold for over $50 million, six sold for over $5 million, and 31 sold for over $1 million. Some 38% of lots sold above the high estimate, and 23% of lots sold within the pre-sale estimate range.
While the record price for Manet drove the evening’s headlines, the sale was also notable for consistently high sell-through rates at the middle market level, between $500,000 and $5 million. For example, works priced in the $1-2 million range were 92% sold by lot. Similarly, works priced in the $2-5 million range were 93% sold by lot. Together, these rates suggest that collectors are seeking high-quality Impressionist and Modern art across a broad spectrum of prices.
“Christie’s is committed to presenting our clients with opportunities at every price level of the market,” noted Brooke Lampley, head of Impressionist and Modern Art for Christie’s Americas. “The overall results and sell-through rates of our New York Evening Sale show that our strategy of building a closely-edited sale of high-quality artworks matched to current collecting tastes is a winning one, and we look forward to our next major sale series in this category in London in February.”
Impressionist and Cubist works proved particularly appealing to clients this season, with 100% of the sale’s Impressionist and Cubist offerings sold — an indication of heightened interest in this movement as well as the great rarity of the works offered.
The Cubist selection was led by a collection of three works from the Melamed Family Collection, which totalled $10,151,000, including Pablo Picasso’s Figure, 1913, which achieved $4,309,000.
Gino Severini’s Etude pour Autoportrait au canotier, 1912-1913, realized $4,757,000 – a new auction record for a work by the artist in this medium.