Christie's prints and multiples results without the AI painting; Calvin Klein's Raf Simons Loves Warhol; Phillips Thrives on Middle Market Tailwind; Listen to Alex Katz on Artists; Blame KitchensThis commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
What Else Happened at Christie’s $13.2m Prints & Multiples Sale?The news that a work of art created using an algorithm trained on 15,000 portraits has provoked a great deal of hysterical over-reaction. The worst example is Jerry Saltz’s tantrum where he repeats several de-bunked canards about Christie’s $450m Leonardo sold a year ago. (The least hysterical, and more informative, take can be found here from Ahmed Elgammal.) Saltz ought to stick to his own guns and believe that the market doesn’t confer artistic merit on a work. It only measures what someone was willing to pay. And that’s nothing to get upset about. Part of the problem seems to be that the $432,000 work had a high estimate of $10,000. But all that tells us is that Christie’s had not idea of the potential value. More to the point, like the $450m Leonardo, there’s no reason to believe that a single price that can be the result of many extra-market forces determines market value. Christie’s describes the bidding, “The work was won by an anonymous phone bidder after a battle between three phone bidders, an online participant in France and one gentleman in the room.” We won’t know if Obvious’s works are “worth” six figures until someone else—possibly one of the five underbidders—is willing to pay six figures for one of their works. In the meantime, Christie’s had more than 350 other lots in that prints and multiples sale. The total for the sale was a very strong $13,239,750. The top lot was a complete portfolio of Andy Warhol’s Myths which achieved $780,500. As single print of Superman from the Myths also sold for $200,000 and was the 11th most valuable print in the sale, if you remove the AI work. Christie’s says the sale had registered bidders from 34 countries. A Matisse portfolio of the Jazz prints made $588k. Picasso’s print of a woman after Cranach the Younger also made $432,500. Marcel Duchamp’s valise of miniature versions of his work that was produced in an edition of 75 sold for $396,500 or slightly less than the low estimate even though that estimate doesn’t include fees. Once again, the print sales were dominated by Andy Warhol—nearly a third of the top 30 lots were Warhol’s works—even as the rest of his market is waning.
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