On Wednesday, Sotheby’s closed its online editions sale with strong results, seeing 88% of the lots sold meeting the pre-sale high estimate and bringing in a total of $3.4M.
Warhol saw strong prices in the auction with his 1979 Grapes (Suite of 6) achieving $375,000, the highest price realized for the set, doubling its high estimate of $180,000. Warhol’s Grapes are another example of the Pop icon’s signature democratic approach to his subject matter throughout the 1980s when he started to screenprint portraits of celebrities, treating famous and mundane objects equally.
The second highest selling lot among the group was a work produced for Warhol’s ‘TV’ series. Warhol’s Moonwalk (Feldman & Schellmann II.405) from 1987 saw $187,500, exceeding its $175,000 high estimate. Television was a major fascination throughout Warhol’s career as a central element to daily American life. The obsession even goes posthumously, as Warhol’s gravesite is perpetually live streamed through the Warhol museum’s site.
Jasper Johns’s Target (ULAE 147) from 1974 realized a selling price of $162,500 against an estimate of $125,000-200,000 and collecting only six bids in total. The work comprises the signature bullseye reproduced in a number of the painters works starting in the mid-1950s. The target is one among a group of repeated motifs like the American flag that Johns used for their recognizability. The print also shares the same scheme of its 1955 encaustic painting counterpart Target with Four Faces, which belongs to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, gifted from the storied Postwar collection of American Robert C. Scull.
Reporting that half of all the buyers were new to Sotheby’s, the category is proving to be successful for engaging new participants. “We were particularly encouraged by the participation of more than 100 new bidders, who responded to the offering worldwide. Top prices were dominated by the work of Andy Warhol, including his record-setting Grapes from 1979, but prices were buoyant overall, with half of all lots offered selling above expectations” said Mary Bartow, Head of Sotheby’s Prints Department in New York.
Other top artists in the prints category who usually bring in high numbers saw lower bidding. Roy Lichtenstein’s Sweet Dreams just met its estimate at $125,000 with three bids total. Among the five-figure priced works, Keith Haring’s 1987 Pop Shop, a set of four prints featuring vignettes of his signature comic-like figures drew a total of ten bids and met its high estimate of $60,000. But despite the hype for two David Bowie wallpaper sets priced between $20,000-40,000, the items failed to sell, proving the traditional editions auction a weak host for an item of celebrity ephemera.