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It has been a big year for George Condo’s market. Five of his top ten prices—including the works that are in the number one and two slots—were sold 2016. Eight of the top 15 prices came this year too. Half of those in the November sales in New York where the Ames collection provided five of the six works on offer at Sotheby’s. And three of those achieved top 15 prices.
Judging simply from the nearly $2m record price for the artist set during a July charity auction for Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation or the $1.3m paid during a Sotheby’s day sale in May, the demand for Condo’s work has come as a bit of a surprise to auction specialists.
With 10 works on offer—two at Christie’s, two Phillips and the Ames works plus another at Sotheby’s—the November sales were a real market test for the artist. The number of Condo works on stands at Art Basel in Miami Beach a few weeks after the November sales only confirmed what was seen in the auction rooms.
Every one of the ten Condos on offer sold. Only two had to take the low estimate with an additional work landing within the estimate range. The rest were bid above the high estimates with several works subject to intensive bidding.
Because the Ames collected Condo in some depth, there were five works on offer from the family. Sotheby’s chose one for their Evening sale of Contemporary art. Not surprisingly, Woman on Brown Chair achieved the top price at Sotheby’s by making $972,500 which was 15% above the high estimate of $700k before fees were added to the total price.
Phillips was able to achieve the highest price of the sales cycle with Noble Woman. It carried the same $500-700k estimate as Woman on Brown Chair but Phillips was able to squeeze a few more dollars out of bidders to get $1.oo6m with fees.
The rest of the Ames works at Sotheby’s were the surprise of the week. Two of the day sale lots made the same effective price point as the top two lots. Though it took a fair bit more competitive bidding to get them there. At Sotheby’s, Female Portrait was bid to nearly twice the high estimate of $450k before making $972,500 in fees. Big John made almost the same number ($948,500) even though it carried a lower estimate of $350k at the top end.
That price point of just below or slightly above $1m which was paid for four different lots at two auction houses is significant. Those four works became the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th highest prices paid for the artist’s work. To any observer, that somewhat resets Condo’s market toward the top end.
There was one single work that out-performed its estimates in a substantial way but fell substantially below the $1m price point. That was the Ames’s 2012 work, Toy Head, which was estimated at between $100,000 and $200,000 but was ultimately purchased for $564,500 with fees.
The remaining works all sold for prices between $50k and $250k. At least two of the works saw spirited bidding demonstrating the depth of the demand here as buyers fill in at the lower end of the spectrum. Of note was Christie’s early untitled work that was offered with a $40-60k estimate range but sold for $137,500.