This report on the Sotheby’s Contemporary Day 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.)
Following Sotheby’s staggering $362.3 million evening sale, the market test continued into Tuesday’s contemporary day sale. 212 lots by postwar and contemporary brand names like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Ryman and Ruth Asawa came to auction, realizing a total sale price of $51.5 million and seeing an 83% sell-through rate overall.
The highly anticipated evening sales brought to the post-coronavirus market a long-awaited test of confidence, showing that even in a fragile socio-economic climate, the top end of the art market remains resilient. Leading the contemporary Day sale was minimalist painter Robert Ryman’s off-white monochrome Contract from 1998 which brought in $2.72 million, hammering below its pre-sale estimate range of $3 million to $4 million. It was purchased by the seller in 2009 at New York’s Luhring Augustine. California sculptor Ruth Asawa’s hanging lobed 1956 sculpture went for $2.6 million, after drawing 21 bids against an estimate of $2 million to $3 million. The work was consigned from the estate of Adrian and Joan Skewes-Cox Malone. The record price for Asawa at auction recently moved to $4 million for a hanging sculpture sold at Christie’s New York in November 2019. Alexander Calder’s hanging mobile Occhio Giallo from 1956 reached above its high estimate, achieving $1.64 million with the buyer’s fee against an estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million.
Keith Haring’s monumental red, black and yellow graphic vinyl tarpaulin came to auction with a guaranteed, and realized a selling price of $2.42 million, against its pre-sale estimate of $2 million to $3 million. George Condo’s 2011 Population of Forms sold for $2.6 million against an estimate of $1.8 million to $2.8 million. California artist Wayne Thiebaud’s work Toward Twins Peaks, a sun-lit urban landscape sold for $1.82 million, landing within its pre-sale estimate of $1.5 million to $2 million, but only hammering just at the low estimate even after garnering 7 bids. The 1962 work was consigned from the collection of New York patrons, Sidney and Bernice Clyman who purchased the painting from Thiebaud’s New York dealer Allan Stone in 1976. Another early Thiebaud from 1963 featuring rows of black and white layer cake more than doubled its high estimate of $300,000, eventually selling for $836,000 with buyer’s premium after drawing 32 bids total with advance interest. Richard Estes 1980 photorealist work hammered past its high estimate at $480,000, eventually realizing a selling price of $596,000 after collecting 8 phone bids.
Another work from the Ginny Williams collection, Ed Ruscha’s 1974 textual work against a neutral background, Other Matters went for $400,000 with buyer’s premium to an online bidder, far surpassing its high pre-sale expectation of $180,000. Ad Reinhardt’s red abstract gouache on paper from the Anderson collection went for $400,000, more than tripling its low estimate of $180,000 after 19 bids came in online and over the phone. The work came fresh to the market after having been in the same collection since its purchase in 1993 at a Sotheby’s New York sale.
Despite the hype drawn from the previous night’s impressionist and modern evening sale for selections from The Vanguard Spirit, Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s 1971 The President, featuring the artist’s signature inflated figures host to sociopolitical critique realized a selling price of $740,000, coming in under its low estimate of $800,000 after drawing just six bids. Although the work has never before come to auction and has changed hands privately only twice, it failed to sustain interest. Philip Guston’s 1971 Roma, a work on paper came to auction from the collection of dealer Ginny Williams, who bought the work at a Christie’s New York sale in May 2001 for $105,000. In that sale, the work doubled its low estimate of $50,000. Here is sold for $800,000, surpassing its estimate of $500,000 to $700,000.
Later in the sale, Louise Bourgeois’ Fallen Woman a black marble sculpture from 1981 saw 16 bids from participants both online and on the phone. The work sold for $475,000, more than tripling its low estimate of $180,000 extending the high interest in the sculptor’s work sparked in last night’s Ginny Williams sale.
At the lower priced echelon of the auction’s afternoon session, works by emerging auction darlings were put to the test. Ghanian-born and Vienna-based painter Amoako Boafo who reached new heights in Phillips New Now sale with a new record of $881,550, saw high results for a white-backed portrait of a head on canvas from 2019. The work beat its high expectation of $70,000 by more than three times, collecting seven advance bids before it hit the block and eventually selling for $262,500. Late painter, Noah Davis who also saw a recent record at Phillips in March drew 17 bids for his 2010 front yard scene before going for $400,000, more than three times its low pre-sale expectation of $120,000.
Irish figurative painter Genieve Figgis’ In the Garden With My House featuring the artists’ signature melding of history painting and contemporary macabre drew 9 advance bids, going for $81,250 with buyer’s premium against its pre-sale estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. The seller bought the work at New York’s Half Gallery in July 2017, the same year the work was completed. In 2019, her auction record moved to $303,663 with the sale of Birth of Venus in a Phillips Hong Kong contemporary sale. Simone Leigh’s Providence a bust sculpture acquired by the seller from Luhring Augustine in 2017 sold for $237,500, more than four times its high estimate of $80,000.
American artist Titus Kaphar, whose new work depicting a black mother holding the absent silhouette of a child which debuted on the cover of TIME earlier this month was also featured in the auction. Kaphar’s chalk portrait drawing on black asphalt paper from 2015 sold for a total of $131,250, besting its pre-sale estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. The sale set a new record for the artist, whose previous highest auction price was set at Sotheby’s in May 2018 when Confessions, a portrait of a young black man sold for $81,250.