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Auction Action

Coverage on the November 2014 Contemoprary & Post-War Sales

Ok, just give me a second while I pick my jaw up off the floor. Wow. Just, wow… $2.3 Billion worth of art sold in 2 weeks.  Damn, that’s a lot of money.  So, in case you forgot to read the title, we are talking Contemporary & Post-War and as shocking as it may seem, we actually saw a slight uptick from a record-setting set of Contemporary sales that took place this past spring. More noticeably, it’s an increase of over 25% from the fall 2013 set of Contemporary sales.  So without further ado, let’s get down to the action…

Sotheby’s was first with 78 lots up for grabs in their evening sale.  Leading the way we had Mark Rothko’s No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange) at just under $45M (est. “In excess of” $35M) going to an anonymous buyer.  Falling in second was Jasper Johns’ Flag, which set an auction record for the artist at $36M, although it was heavily underestimated at $15-20M.  Not too far behind in third was Warhol’s Liz #3 which was expected to bring “in the region of” $30M and did just that with a selling price of $31.5M.  While there were some incredible prices achieved, the overall results were not as robust as I’m sure Sotheby’s hoped (especially after they witnessed what happened the following evening at Christie’s).  Eleven of the 78 lots failed to sell… 86%; and the top 5 lots alone accounted for a hefty 43% of the total, $343M (including premiums)… in line with their expected $308-428M; but as we always point out… that range does not include premiums.  That being said, we are talking about a number far closer to the bottom end of that pre-sale range.

The following day was Sotheby’s chubby day sale with an overwhelming 478 lots.  The results were far more modest with Warhol’s Debbie Harr as the top lot garnering just over $3M (est. $2.5-3.5).  Not far off in second was David Hockney’s Canyon Painting, bringing $2.96M on a $1.2-1.8M estimate.  Rounding out the top three was Robert Motherwell’s Red Cut by Black,which found a buyer at $2.68M (est. $900K-1.2M).  The results were mixed with 105 lots failing to sell (78% sold) yet still achieving a solid figure of $91.2M on a pre-sale estimate of $73-105M.

Combined, the two sales raked up $434.2M and with their $470M the week before, I am sure Sotheby’s figured they were going to be the winner for the November 2014 sales with $904.2M; but there was still one more set of sales to come.

Now comes the fun part… Hello Christie’s!  A neat and respectable 80 lots were offered on the evening of November 12th with just 5 works failing to sell (94% sell-through rate).  The sale was simply littered with masterworks and it showed in the final results, easily making this a blockbuster sale… The top lot was Warhol’s Triple Elvis, and as you might imagine, it was a large canvas with an iconic image of Elvis printed three times… $81.9M (est. “in the region of” $60M).  Another impressive Warhol fell into a tie for second, Four Marlons,  which too was given an estimate “in the region of” $60M, however the bidding only made its way up to $69.6M, #bargain.  Cy Twombly’s Untitled also found a buyer at $69.6M (est. $35-55M) and in the process, set a new auction record for the artist.  Any of the top 10 works would have been a top lot in a smaller market, as the list goes on and on… 4th- Francis Bacon at $44M, 5th – Gerhard Richter at $31.5M, 6th – Ed Ruscha at $30.4M (auction record). While breaking 11 artist auction records, in the end, the final tally was a blistering $852M, pushing beyond the $630-836M estimate. Blockbuster:?

As if Christie’s didn’t eat enough, the ensuing day sale had to be broken down into a morning session and an afternoon session … another 496 lots (morning-280/afternoon-216).  The morning sale offered a mid-level selection while the afternoon featured some of the “lower-end” works… and let’s just keep in mind we’re still talking over $2M for the top-lot in a sale full of the leftovers [K. Haring – Untitled (Est. $2-3M)].   Of the two sales, the top lot on this day was Lichtenstein’sBlue Head at $3.3M (Est. $3-5M). Not far behind was a Lichtenstein collage bringing $3.19M (Est. $1-1.5M).  Taking third for the day was Motherwell’s Open No. 23: In Blue with Variations of Ultramarine at $2.4M (Est. $800K-1.2M). With a combined estimate of $93.9-135.6M, the two sales sold 411 lots (83%) for a total of $112M on the day. Just to get an idea of how insane these two days were at Christies I’ll give you some of the overall figures… $965M in total sales, 486 sold lots and an 84.3% sell-through rate.  Nice job guys.  Now add in the $193M from the week before and Christie’s total hit $1.16B!



Lance Rehs

About Alyssa T. Rehs

Alyssa Rehs is a fourth generation Art Dealer at her family owned art galleries, Rehs Galleries, Inc. and Rehs Contemporary Galleries, Inc., New York City, New York. She received an Art History degree from the University of Rhode Island in 2012 as well as interned at Christie’s Auction House, New York City. Using her art historian degree, gallery experience, and a summer spent working at the auction house, she has a well rounded understanding of the art market. Alyssa appreciates the market from multiple standpoints; art lover, art buyer and art seller!


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