Kicking off the fall auction season against the backdrop of a slow-reviving New York, a nightly sale of works by Christie’s in the 21st century fetched $219 million on Tuesday.
All 40 lots offered have been sold. Two works, one by Mark Grotjahn, the other by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, were offered for sale with an internal guarantee, while 20 others were guaranteed by a third party. The whole group was to reach an estimated hammer price between 150 and 230 million dollars with premium.
Christie’s auctioneer Gemma Sudlow, head of private and iconic collections, took to the stage on Tuesday to lead the sale. She replaced fellow Christie’s chairman Adrien Meyer, who was tapped to lead New York’s evening sales last season during the pandemic break. Among the masked spectators in the packed room were drug dealers Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian. Although the setting resembled a pre-pandemic auction hall, the energy among the crowd and scholars was largely subdued.
The work that obtained the highest prize is the large painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat gold teeth guilt (1982), which depicts a grimacing skull-like figure wearing a top hat amid scribbled text. Arriving at the sale with an irrevocable offer, the work fell below its low estimate of $37 million, going to its sole bidder on the phone with Christie’s President Alex Rotter for a final price of $40 million. dollars.
A large-scale painting by Peter Doig, titled overwhelmed (1990), sold for $39 million to another telephone bidder with Rotter. This bidder triumphed over two others from Hong Kong and New York. Featuring a single white boat floating amidst pond weeds and tree stumps, the work is part of Doig’s seminal “Canoe” series. It was expected to gross over $35 million and it did. In May 2015, the European collector who sold the work bought it for $26 million at auction. The result eclipsed Doig’s previous record of $28.8 million, set when the artist Rosedale (1991) sold at Phillips in New York in 2017.
Another expensive item was Basquiat’s Flash in Naples (1983), which depicts the superhero from the comic book series after which the work is named. The painting, which was sold by publishing mogul Peter Brant, was last exhibited at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in 2020. It fetched $19.8 million, beating its estimate of $14 million. dollars. Prior to that, it sold for $8.1 million in 2017 at Christie’s and in 2010 for $3.3 million at Sotheby’s in New York.
Emerging and mid-career artists with booming markets continued to dominate Christie’s sales. Hilary Pecis’ domestic scene Interior upstairs (2019) sold for more than 10 times its high estimate of $80,000, finding a buyer on the phone with Christie’s Hong Kong specialist Evelyn Lin for $870,000. The sum more than doubled Pecis’ auction record of $307,600, which was set less than a month ago at Christie’s in London.
The next batch, Nicholas Party’s Countryside (2021), sold for $3.3 million with a premium to a bidder over the phone with Hong Kong President Erik Chang. This result sets a new record for the artist. A record was also set for Stanley Whitney, whose 1999 untitled painting featuring rows of box-like shapes in varying shades attracted five bidders from New York and the UK. It sold for $1.2 million. As with Pecis, this was the second time Whitney’s auction record has been reset in 2021 — the first came in June, when a bidder paid nearly $725,000 for her painting. Light up a new desert (2016) at Christie’s.
A third of the lots offered in Christie’s evening sale were consigned by the same collector. A group of works by Pictures Generation, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Christopher Wool, were sold under the title “Image World”; they were sold by New Jersey neurosurgeon Abe Steinberger and his wife Cynthia, according to vanity lounge. From the group, Barbara’s Kruger’s Untitled (Your fads become science), 1981, set a new record for the artist at $1.2 million. Together, the 13 works have generated a collective $36.5 million.
One of the unconventional lots in the sale attracted some of the evening’s liveliest bids. For the sale, artist NFT Beeple has produced a physical work titled A human. The work is a seven-foot-tall sculpture made up of LED screens that display an astronaut walking through a dystopian landscape; it also comes with an NFT. Four bidders competed for the work, which cost $25 million, beating an estimate of $15 million. It went to an online bidder in Switzerland for a final price of $29 million.
Behind-the-scenes financial machinations sealed the fate of a number of works in this sale, putting a damper on the energy of this high-end sale. But the auctions have sometimes become more lively thanks to competition from Hong Kong.
Christie’s aim with this sale was twofold: the house used its season opener to further facilitate auctions from different continents and to catch up with its competitor, Sotheby’s, by transforming the evening sale into a state-of-the-art venue. with auction tracking and display screens. batch details. The change in atmosphere was felt in Sudlow’s opening description of the scene which was updated with digital flourishes. “You might notice things look a little different in James Christie’s bedroom,” Sudlow said, calling the sale an “immersive event.”