On Tuesday, ahead of its upcoming London evening sales scheduled for the end of the month, Christie’s saw a stable performance during its New York mid-season ‘Postwar to Present’ auction, focused on offerings by emerging and mid-career blue-chip artists. Generating a total of $23 million with premium, the sale realized an 86 percent sell-through rate across 120 lots. The total came out to a solid 23 percent above the pre-sale expectation of $18.9 million (with fees.)
With records for Derrick Adams, Elaine de Kooning, Lucas Samaras and Jammie Holmes, the result is on par with the equivalent March 2020 total of $22 million. The total is up slightly from the previous year’s comparable sale, which achieved $20.9 million. Following Phillips historic-high total for its ‘New Now’ sale last week, the outcome at Christie’s signals steady demand in the middle market.
Demand was strong throughout the sale: 37 percent of the lots achieved hammer prices above the high estimate, 31 percent hammered within their expectations and 17 percent landed below the low pre-sale expectation.
Among the top sellers was Keith Haring’s untitled crimson red vinyl tarpaulin work from 1983, which had been in the same private collection since its purchase at Tony Shafrazi gallery the year it was made. Coming to the market with a guarantee the work hammered at $2.47 million ($3 million with premium), just below the low estimate. The Foundation of U.S. collectors Mireille and James Lévy, which sold off a number of works in Christie’s Modern British Art sales in London sale week, also parted with Andy Warhol’s pink silkscreen Marilyn dated 1979-1986, which they purchased in 1988. The Warhol went for $1.3 million against an estimate of $800,000.
Postwar women artists saw healthy prices. Ruth Asawa’s steel wire sculpture of a tree from 1963 sold for $966,000 with premium, more than three times the low estimate of $250,000. Elaine deKooning’s 1985-86 oil and charcoal canvas painting Red Bison/Blue Horse, which had remained in the same collection for more than three decades, went for $562,500, against an estimate of $250,000. The result moved the artist’s record up from the previous benchmark of $110,000 paid for a charcoal portrait of JFK sold during the estate sale of Jackie Kennedy Onassis at Christie’s in 1996.
The late Matthew Wong’s 2017 landscape Luminous Night went for $2.2 million, three times the estimate of $600,000, making it the second highest selling work across the sale. Among the other emerging artists in high demand who were represented in the sale was Salman Toor. His 2019 painting The Singers, a scene of young figures congregating around a guitar-player sitting on brick wall, which the seller purchased in Lahore the year it was made, sold for $612,500. The work surpassed its estimate of $100,000, and is now the second highest seller of just five works by the artist to come to auction, under his record price of $822,000, paid at Christie’s in December for Rooftop Party with Ghosts 1 (2015).
A painting by Emily Mae Smith, a figurative painter with an ascendant market, Profane Interloper which the made this year sold for $350,000, 7 times the estimate of $50,000. The result follows Mae’s recent addition to Petzel gallery’s roster in February. It also comes just shy of the record price paid for her 2018 Alien Shores, an image of an anthropomorphic broom, which went for £277,200 ($359,000) at Phillips London contemporary art evening sale in October. That work also far surpassed an estimate of £40,000.
Elsewhere, Derrick Adam’s 2019 double portrait Figure in the Urban Landscape 31 sold for a new record of $250,000, double the pre-sale low estimate. Dallas-based painter Jammie Holmes’s domestic scene This Week’s Last Supper (2020) was another that well outpaced its expectation, going for $137,500, against an estimate of $40,000. The result surpassed Holmes’s previous record of $94,500 paid for an untitled 2019 painting at Phillips during a New York contemporary art day sale in December.