This report on the Sotheby's Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Evening sale for June 2020 by Angelica Villa 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.)
On Monday, Sotheby’s staged its marquee contemporary, Impressionist, and modern evening auctions in its first live session featuring a fully remote format. The long-awaited market trial took place in the New York headquarters following several months of live auction hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. The leading lots were works by top postwar names—Francis Bacon, Clyfford Still, and Roy Lichtenstein, with Jean-Michel Basquiat not far behind. The sale achieved a total of $363.2 million across the three evening auctions and a 93 percent sell-through rate overall.
Head auctioneer Oliver Barker addressed the virtual audience from his podium in London in a surreal multi-camera global livestream connecting teams across time zones spanning Hong Kong, London, and New York. Kicking off the evening sale was the Ginny Williams collection, a far-sighted gathering of works by female modernists, which saw an impressive 100 percent sell-through rate, to bring in a total of $65.5 million, easily outdoing its $51.7 million high estimate. The contemporary art evening auction that followed featured 10 pieces from the storied West Coast Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson (aka Hunk and Moo), among significant others; that sale realized a total $234.9 million. Only one lot in that sale, a Basquiat oil and Xerox collage from the collection of Robert Farris Thompson, failed to find a buyer.
At the high-value end of the auction, modern master Francis Bacon’s large-format Triptych from 1981, inspired by Aeschylus’s trilogy of Greek tragedies dating to the 5th century B.C., drew prolonged bidding. Online and phone bids brought the work within its estimate of $60 million to $80 million before the hammer came down at $74 million ($84.5 million, with buyers premium). The work’s consignor is Norwegian collector Hans Rasmus Astrup, who bought it in 1984, and is selling it to raise funds for his private foundation, the Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo. It is the sixth large-format Bacon triptych to come to auction, and the first of its kind since 2014. The sale marks Bacon's third-highest price achieved at auction.
Pop master Roy Lichtenstein’s White Brushstroke I from 1965 sold for $27 million, settling within an estimate of $20 million to $30 million. The highest price paid for another Brushstroke from 1965, featuring a similar scheme by the artist, went for $28.5 million in a Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale in May 2017. Clyfford Still’s abstract work PH-144 (1947-Y-NO.1), consigned from the Hunk and Moo Anderson estate, hammered at its $25 million low estimate ($28.7 million, with buyer’s premium).
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