Now would not seem to be the ideal time to sell Jeff Koons’s Rabbit; The Art Newspaper publishes its museum attendance survey; Art Basel Hong Kong sales report.
This 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.)
Is This a Good Time for Jeff Koons’s Rabbit to Sell?
This morning’s news that Christie’s would sell Jeff Koons’s Rabbit (1986) from S. I. Newhouse’s estate with an estimate between $50m and $70m was met with both surprise and sanguine expectation. Many of the reports made reference to the 2013 sale of Koons’s Orange Balloon Dog which set an auction record of $58.4m.
Most market participants are aware of at least some part of the story behind that sale. The fact that the guarantor who bought the work is widely believed to be a regular buyer and seller of Evening sale art who has done business with the seller for years doesn’t invalidate the price achieved but it does place a level of caution around the Koons market. It also raises questions about the depth of bidders for Koons above $30m. The year after Orange Balloon Dog was sold, a complete Jim Beam Train sold for $33.7m which might be a better measure of the top of the Koons market.
Last year’s $22.8m Play-Doh sale didn’t show strong demand. That result may have been affected by the recent controversies surrounding Koons’s fabrication costs and his studio’s difficulty in delivering against a backlog of original work.
That would suggest that now is a risky time to try to set a new record price for the artist.
At the same time, few people who know anything about Contemporary art would argue over the importance of Koons’s Rabbit. Where the balloon dog is monumental and has been the subject of a large number of derivative works by the artist, there are only four editions of the Rabbit. There’s really no other similar work even among the “Statuary” works. It’s precious and domestic size should make it more market friendly, not less.
There are three editions of the work and an artist’s proof which is now in The Broad in Los Angeles. Another example is in Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, a gift from Stefan Edlis. Newhouse’s example puts pressure on potential buyers that this sale will be one of the last opportunities to acquire this work.
There’s also something to be said for selling this work when Koons’s market is quiet. That brings to mind the recent revival of the Basquiat market which was weakened by the resales of Jho Low’s record acquisitions. By 2015, Basquiat’s average price in an evening sale was approaching 2007 levels. Into what appeared to be a weak market similar to the situation that faces Koons, Christie’s was able to secure the Basquiat work that everyone wanted. The resulting strong $57m sale set up the unexpected sale the following year that reset the top of the Basquiat market and revived interest and sales.
Top Museums By Attendance
The Art Newspaper published its annual list of museum attendance, including the most visited exhibitions around the world.
Art Basel Hong Kong Sales ReportWe’ve put together reports from Artnet and ArtNews with sales reported directly. We’ll post a final report for AMMpro subscribers on the main site.
Hauser & Wirth
- Mark Bradford’s ‘Superman’ (2019) for USD 2,000,000
- The first painting by Jack Whitten to become available from his Estate for USD 1,750,000
- Work on paper by Arshile Gorky
- Lorna Simpson painting to an Asian institution for USD 425,000
- Series of Louise Bourgeois lithographs for circa USD 400,000
- Günther Förg acrylic on wood for EUR 275,000 to a private collection in Hong Kong
- A 1974 Luchita Hurtado painting for USD 220,000 to a collection in Asia
- Charles Gaines mixed media work for USD 120,000
- A new painting by Amy Sherald
- The gallery also reports that it has placed all available work by Louise Bourgeois from its exhibition at H Queen’s within one day of the opening, the majority of works to collections in Asia with prices ranged from USD 250,000 to USD 4,000,000 per work
- sold its entire exhibition of luminous paintings by Mary Corse largely to Asian clients for prices ranging from $300,000 to $650,000
- a large painting from 2012 by Zhang Xiaogang, which went to a Chinese foundation for $1m
- a parabolic lens by Fred Eversley for $250,000
- a Rashid Johnson for $210,000
- a Jonas Wood for $175,000
- a Jonas Wood for $120,000
- a Matthew Brannon for $48,000
- a Calvin Marcus for $38,000
- an Ivan Morley for $36,000
- a Will Boone for $35,000
- a Lauren Halsey for $30,000
- Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Elvis (1962) for $2.85m
Almine Rech Gallery
- a painting by George Condo in the range of $1.2m to $1.4m
- sold four new sculptures by Carol Bove for $400,000 to $500,000 each
- An Alice Neel for $1.7m
- sold Two Dana Schutz monotypes for $40,000 each
- two of her etchings at $6,000 a piece
- sold a $1.7 million bronze sculpture by Georg Baselitz
- a new Elizabeth Peyton watercolor priced at $95,000
- a fire-hued Imi Knoebel on aluminum listed at $226,000
Blum & Poe
- sold Henry Taylor’s Queen & King for $850,000
- a piece by Yukinori Yanagi, Wandering Position – Pgonomyrmex7 (1997) for $65,000