Sotheby’s and Christie’s show positive gains in mid-season sales; Christie’s has 27% new buyers in first half of 2019.
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Cecily Brown, Untitled #17 (2006) $425,000
Sotheby’s September Contemporary Curated sale was up slightly from last year’s strong event when $30.9m in art was sold. This year, Cecily Brown, Kerry James Marshall and Ed Ruscha led the sale.
Among the stand out performances was Martin Wong’s Ten Brooklyn Storefronts which sold for $884,000 over a $80k high estimate. Wong’s previous record was in the low six figures. But based upon the work’s museum quality, at least according to the chatter among Wong fans, Sotheby’s Charlotte Van Dercook felt the work was “like a piece of history—ahead of its time in a lot of ways.” Still, brimful with confidence about the piece. Van Dercook only allowed herself to hope for a price like $300k which would have been a neat doubling of the record price.
No one thought it would make a $750k hammer. “It was one of those perfect storm moments,” Van Dercook says.
The sale’s top lot, Cecily Brown’s triptych Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard from 2011 made $3.74m over a $3m high estimate. “For so many buyers, a Cecily Brown fits in with their collection,” Van Dercook says of the highly sought after artist whose work could easily have been featured in an Evening sale.
How did she get to keep it in her sale? “I didn’t hide the painting,” Van Dercook says. This sale can handle a painting of that price level. Collectors bid all year round for quality. Our cover lot is a prime spot.”
Another smaller work by Brown sold for $425k over a $200k high estimate. The 17 x 12 5/8 in painting from 2006 may be even more indicative of the heat on Brown’s market. “It was a little jewel,” Van Dercook says. “I think having the big one in the sale helped it along.”
Christie’s Post-War to Present = $23.24m + $7.5m
Christie’s mid-season Contemporary art sale was also up year-over-year from 2018 when the auction house pulled in $20.14m. Helen Frankenthaler’s Graze was among the five Frankenthaler works that did quite well in the sale. Yoshitomo Nara’s little painting Fuck! from 1999 also surprised to the upside with an $879k all in price over a $650k high estimate for a picture that measures 12 x 11 inches.
The thirty-five Ed Ruscha works auctioned in a separate sale from the Clarke collection also did quite well making a total of $7.5m. Wavy Robot made $1.2m over a $600k high estimate to lead the event. Palm from 1970 also did well at $795k.
Art + Tech, Social Continue Christie’s Engagement
Christie’s also released some numbers on the first half of 2019 late last week. New buyers continue to pour into the auction house at the rate of 27% last year. The auction house boasts a 47% increase in audience engagement over the same period with Instagram leading the way with 72% engagement. WeChat also saw a 28% rise in followers for Christie’s channel.
The auction house also announced that it will hold another version of its Art + Tech Summit in Hong Kong November 21st. This one is titled Mixed Reality and will be a single-day conference focused on the disruptive power of technology as applied to the arts.