Christie’s closed the first portion of its two online themed Post-War and Contemporary Art sales as part of a new dual series VICE and VIRTUE on May 27. The new contemporary sale’s 50 lots, spanning offerings across postwar mainstays to primary-market newcomers brought in a total of $2.2 million.
The sale series was initiated as a response to the delay of the marquee contemporary auctions now scheduled to take place in July, as well as a way to meet demand with a smaller set of curated offerings in the contemporary sector. The highest earners of the curated sale include Warhol’s Work Boots, a silkscreen on canvas from 1985 acquired by the seller from the Warhol Foundation, which sold for $435,000, above the high expectation of $350,000. Fernando Botero’s Standing Woman from 2003, a nude study featuring the artist’s signature bulbous figures, landed within its estimate at $350,000. The work has changed hands only twice, the seller here having acquired the work from a private Swiss collector, who received the painting directly from the artist. The highest price ever paid for a Botero painting is $2.1 million, established in 2014 in a Sotheby’s Latin American art sale. An example from the KAWS 2009 “KAWSBOB (Open Mouth), Package Painting” series, purchased by the seller at Honor Fraser in Los Angeles, doubled its high estimate to realize a price of $300,000.
Barbara Kruger’s 1995 Untitled (Your taste is in your mouth) featuring the artist’s signature large-scale graphic play on American ad culture, consigned by a private West Coast collector, reached its low estimate of $250,000. Despite global acclaim, Kruger’s current auction record is still in the six-figure price point, at $902,500, set in 2011 at Christie’s when Untitled (When I hear the word culture I take out my checkbook) tripled its high estimate.
Many other works in the sale were fresh to the market, some created only within the past two years. David Shrobe’s assemblage piece, Protector, marked the artist’s debut at auction; completed in 2018 and exhibited in the young New York–based artist’s solo survey at Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco, the piece sold for $15,000, more than twice its $6,000 high estimate. Shrobe’s contemporary portraiture has lately been the subject of institutional attention, with the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Brooklyn Museum acquiring works. Jenkins Johnson sold a work comparable to the one just auctioned, Bloodshot from 2019, at the Armory Show in New York for $14,000. Shrobe’s works are held in the Walton Family Private Collection and the Estate of prominent Washington, D.C., collector and activist Peggy Cooper Cafritz, among others.
Other emerging and established mix-media artists newer to the secondary market—with conceptual styles usually not seen at auction—were also included in the sale, but did not see the same high bidding as Shrobe. Ethiopian-American artist Awol Erizku, whose 2017 red-backed acrylic and glitter work featuring a hand holding a rose was originally sold to the consignor at a benefit auction in Los Angeles. The work only met its low estimate of $12,500. Purchased by the seller from Houston’s Inman Gallery, a text piece titled Silence/License by American artist Kay Rosen—whose work resides in the collections of Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art—went for $3,750, meeting its high estimate.