The market is in good shape again

New York Finally, after a very difficult year: “The market is back in good shape”, announced Sotheby’s Star auctioneer Oliver Barker on Wednesday evening with understandable enthusiasm. He had just sold art for a total of 597 million dollars in an extremely dynamic and animated tour-de-force, again via live stream.

Sotheby’s Claude Monet’s late landscape format “Le Bassin aux Nymphéas”, which was created between 1917 and 1919 and kept four bidders from New York, London and Hong Kong in suspense for several minutes, won the top prize. It wasn’t until $ 70.4 million that the hammer fell for Grégoire Billault, head of the Contemporary Art department, and his clients.

At the competitor Christie’s Above all, a two-meter-high, red-ground painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat provided the multi-million dollar foundation of the high-end auction. Basquiat is one of today’s most sought-after artists, a black painter who revolves around questions of identity.

At least five bidders from Asia and the USA quickly catapulted “In This Case” (1983) beyond the $ 40 million bid. The hammer only fell at $ 93.1 million premium, Basquiat’s second highest auction price. The picture was sold by Giancarlo Giammetti, co-founder of the Valentino fashion house. At the last auction appearance in 2002, it had changed hands for just under a million dollars.

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“The relationship between supply and demand has finally leveled off again,” said Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti on the evening before the start of the important spring auctions from Impressionism to the present. That was very different last year, when there was still strong demand from hesitant consignors.

Jean-Michel Basquiat „In This Case“

The nearly two-meter-high painting “In This Case” (1983) quickly exceeded the starting price of $ 40 million and fetched $ 93.1 million with a buyer’s premium.

(Photo: Timothy A. Clary / AFP; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021)

Christie’s opened the auction week on Tuesday evening with a completely new concept. The “21st Century” auction was intended to respond to the global enthusiasm, especially for very young art. “20th Century” followed on Thursday evening with 51 works from Impressionism to the 1970s.

Obviously, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) should not be missing. Nine “CryptoPunks: 2,532, 58, 30, 635, 602, 768, 603 and 757” were offered in one lot. The software company Larva Lab developed their algorithm three years ago, i.e. at the early days of the blockchain movement.

NFT with pixelated heads

“The CryptoPunks are the alpha and omega of the CryptoArt movement and the only NFTs worthy of an evening auction,” explains Noah Davis. The young expert on Post-War & Contemporary Art at Christie’s also orchestrated the much-noticed Beeple auction in March.

A maximum of $ 9 million was expected for the pixelated heads. But in just under four minutes they were catapulted by four international bidders to a premium of 16.9 million dollars. Buyers can choose how they pay: in digital currency or in dollars.

Numbers and odds

As expected, there was fierce competition from bidders from 29 countries, especially for a few young stars. Jonas Wood’s bold and colorful still lifes bordering on abstraction have been causing an international sensation for about ten years. At least five telephones competed for his large format “Two Tables with Floral Pattern” (2013). It set the new record by multiplying the estimate of 6.5 million dollars with a premium.

Among Christie’s 39 lots, mostly figurative compositions, there were only two declines. The evening grossed $ 211.2 million, comfortably above the lower expectation. Customers from Asia secured nine lots (or 24 percent of the offer), including Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Xerox collage for $ 13.2 million, and two studio-fresh paintings by Joel Mesler for $ 226,436 and by Dana Schutz for $ 2.4 Million dollars.

57 percent of the offer stayed in North America and 19 percent will travel to Europe. Of the eleven records set, nearly half were claimed by black artists, including Mickalene Thomas ($ 1.5 million), Lynette Yiadom Boakye, El Anatsui, and Rashid Johnson ($ 1.95 million each).

Sotheby’s countered on Wednesday with Basquiat’s large format “Versus Medici”, which was often exhibited but market-fresh, from the coveted year 1982. In it he processed impressions from a trip to Italy. A duel between telephone providers in London and New York ended tax fair at $ 50.82 million.

Felt the pulse of the market

Sotheby’s, on the other hand, decided for the first time to offer the entire spectrum from impressionism to contemporary art in one evening. Here, out of a total of 83 lots, only six were not sold. Eighteen works climbed over $ 10 million and eight exceeded the $ 20 million mark.

Eleven records were set. The offer of “contemporary art”, which relied on secured positions, was even made 100 percent and above the highest expectations. “Tonight we took the pulse of the market and it is clearly racing. Collectors from all over the world competed fiercely for the entire spectrum of art from the 20th and 21st centuries, ”said Brooke Lampley, Sotheby’s Chairman and new Worldwide Head of Sales for Global Fine Art.

Robert Colescott

The satirical painting “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook” (1975) topped its already ambitious estimate at $ 15.3 million.

(Photo: Cindy Ord / Getty Images North America / AFP; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021)

An Asian bidder was successful in Claude Monet’s rare floral still life “Fleurs dans un pot” from 1878 for 10.4 million dollars. Four Hong Kong agents also negotiated the competition for the female nude by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (around 1892), which once hung in the collection of the legendary French fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin.

Nicholas Chow, Chairman Asia, was only able to raise his bidder number at $ 4.25 million (estimate 1 / 1.5 million dollars). Pablo Picasso’s portrayal of Françoise Gilot as “Femme assise en costume vert” (1953) will also travel to Asia for $ 20.9 million. The portrait was valued at $ 14 million to $ 18 million.

One of the biggest surprises of the evening was Robert Colescott’s well-known satire on Emanuel Leutze’s famous history painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The often exhibited “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook” (1975) with a Black American crew seemed to be reaching for the stars with the very ambitious estimate of 9/12 million dollars. Colescott’s auction prices never went above $ 912,500.

But Kayla Carlsen, Sotheby’s head of American Art, was only able to beat two competitors at a staggering $ 15.3 million. Shortly thereafter, the Lucas Museum for Narrative Art in Los Angeles, which is being built and furnished by producer George Lucas and his wife, investor Melody Hobson, was revealed to be the buyer. It is scheduled to open in 2023.

Long skirmish for Banksy

“The picture is exactly what the Lucas Museum is looking for,” says director Sandra Jackson-Dumont of ARTnews magazine, “the uninhibited dismantling from above and below. It bridges pop culture and history. ”

At Sotheby’s too, the acceptance of digital currency drove price blooms. Banksy’s spray painting “Love is in the Air” (2005) certainly had the longest battle of the evening. Four bidders, two of whom were linked to agents in Hong Kong, raised it to $ 12.9 million amid applause. The estimate had been at most 5 million. Jackie Wachter, Sotheby’s representative in California, finally got access.

More: Non Fungible Token: A smart idea for printing money or innovative art?

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