This report on Christie’s 2020 Postwar to Present sale is available to AMMpro subscribers. Subscriptions begin with a free month for the curious. Feel free to subscribe for the first month and cancel before you are billed.
On Thursday, Christie’s New York Mid-season Postwar to Present sale which offers an array of variably priced contemporary works saw solid results with an 84% sell-through rate by lot, achieving a total of $22 million. This figure is up slightly from the previous year’s comparable sale, which achieved $20.9 million with a 75% sell-through rate. The auction sustained active bidding across two sale sessions for its vast range of lots with several key works anchoring the sale’s stable outcome.
The leading lots by price in the mid-season sale were Robert Indiana’s iconic 1967 LOVE paintings consigned by the artist’s estate, each of which placed well within their estimates of $1-1.5 million. Alma Thomas’s 1968 color-rich Flash of Spring realized a price of $819,000, selling for well above its $650,000 low estimate, the second highest sold price for the artist after setting an auction record of $2.7M in November 2019 Christie’s evening sale. KAWS vibrant 2012 panel IMAGINARY FRIENDS saw a high level of interest among opening bids and sold for $855,000 between its generous $700,000-$1 million estimate. Eddie Martinez’s 2015 graphic abstract Keys to a Defunct Castle reached a solid $615,000, but failed to surpass its high estimate of $680,000. With a quickly increasing market and high level of interest in the emerging artist’s work in the London day sales, this painting’s sale results may be disappointing for its consignor. Another unexpected set of results were achieved with Kenny Scharf’s two large-scale, bright and graffiti-inspired works. Love an imitation on the cartoon Flintstone characters realized a striking selling price of $525,000, going for ten times its high estimate of $50,000. Later in the sale, Roy Lichtenstein’s large scale blue lacquered wood relief screen achieved a staggering $300,000, tripling its high estimate of $100,000.
Among the works in the lower priced echelon were Ed Ruscha‘s blue text piece Two Times The, which doubled its low estimate selling for a strong price of $175,000. Joseph Alber’s Study for a Mitered Square (IV) orange work on paper which landed solidly above its high estimate of $50,000 at $77,500. Jean Dubuffet’s figurative grayscale drawing Personnage sold for $43,750 at four times its low estimate of $10,000. Frank Stella’s Chodorów (Sketch) performed well above its high estimate of $60,000, ultimately going for $112,500. This range of results suggests a sustained interest among the core collecting base in minor works at lower prices points by postwar brand-names.
Another lower priced lot by a museum-grade artist whose work has not been largely featured at auction is the work of Tadasky (Tadasuke Kuwayama), a Japanese-born artist whose 1960s oeuvre of meticulously crafted color wheel paintings appear to have unexpectedly peaked demand. Tadasky’s hypnotic color-field work #B-193 saw robust initial bidding, eventually reaching $200,000, and selling for eight times its initial low estimate of $25,000. Another newcomer who exceeded expectations was Wojciech Fangor, whose blurred retina-like painting M9 sold for $567,000 more than doubling its low estimate of $200,000. In the first few lots on offer, German multi-media artist Mary Bauermeister’s 1966 Peng-Cil glass and wood assemblage went for $162,000 against an estimate of $40,000-$60,000. The first lot of the afternoon session, Lynda Benglis’s 1977 gold leaf sculpture Edge which sold for five times its low estimate of $40,000, started the first segment of the sale with promise. Most notably, the few lots that garnered surprising outcomes reflect an escalating interest in postwar artists at the margins – creatives whose rigorous and institutionally recognized careers may proffer a sense novelty for collectors.
Among the less valuable works by postwar mainstays familiar to the Evening sales, were Warhol’s Jon Gould and Jackie screen prints. These works underperformed, failing to reach their low estimates despite the recent buzz around the sale of Warhol’s Athlete screen-print series from the collection of Robert L. Weisman in the February Christie’s London Contemporary sales.
Amid New York’s Armory Week and following Phillips strong results in the New Now sale, auctions continue with steady results for the middle market.