The first live auction at Christie’s New York since 2020 delivers a satisfactory result of $ 219.3 million, but leaves little to chance

A billboard-sized painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat led a white glove sale of 21st century art, kicking off two weeks of New York auctions that are seen as a litmus test for the art market, but with even higher stakes this time around. .

This was the first time Christie’s had welcomed customers to its Rockefeller Center auction house since March 2020, and the impact of the past 20 months has been felt everywhere: from the jazz trio welcoming guests downstairs and the new teleprompter configuration for auctioneer Gemma Sudlow at the Ladurée macaroons offered at the exit. The message was clear: auctions are now entertainment in their own right, reaching both local and global audiences.

The musty, mid-century chic has been replaced with a rubbed glamor so white and shiny it tires the eyes. Gone are the days when hundreds of people filled the room, practically sitting on top of each other. To create a sense of security for its first big fall outing, Christie’s brought in just 180 guests, mostly dealers and advisers, all in masks. Always a choreographed affair, the night’s auction took on the appearance of a professional basketball game on the court, with a film crew pouring in and giant screens showing live offers from Hong Kong and London.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, The guilt of the golden teeth (1982), which sold for $ 40 million. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

The sale of 40 lots totaled $ 219.3 million, near the high estimate of $ 230.4 million (final prices shown include buyer’s premium, contrary to estimates). Each lot sold and ten artist records were set, for established names like Peter Doig ($ 39.9 million) and Barbara Kruger ($ 1.2 million) as well as emerging talents like Hilary Pecis ($ 870,000) and Issy Wood ($ 468,750). And, another sign of the times, the auction featured three NFT artworks, including Beeple’s first NFT hybrid video sculpture.

“It was a real pleasure to build a sale like this,” said Ana Maria Celis, Senior Vice President and Head of Sales at Chrsitie. “It’s phenomenal.”

While the take was significantly lower than last year’s total of $ 340 million – in an event pushed back until October to avoid unrest surrounding the closing days of the U.S. presidential election – this recent sale reflects the decision of the house to divide its post-war and contemporary offerings into 20th- and 21st-century categories, alongside its Impressionist and Modern art.

Peter Doig, Swamped (1990).  Image courtesy of Christie's.

Peter Doig, flooded (1990), which sold for $ 39.9 million. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

This split appeared to be paying off, with a frantic bid for strategically stored works of in-demand names, some of which were intended to raise money for charity. But the good results masked a more complex reality. Christie’s worked hard to find funders for 80 percent of the lots at a low estimate, ensuring the works would be sold. Many, including the best Basquiat, ended up going to third-party guarantors without any competition.

The shippers wanted security, as did Christie’s. The guarantees were the result of “emerging from two years of uncertainty,” said Alex Rotter, president of the House of Art of the 20th and 21st Century. “It was our first direct sale. There was a bit of “I don’t know what’s going to happen. “

This was the case with the top lot of the evening, The guilt of the golden teeth (1982), estimated in a broadband of $ 40-80 million, which was sold (presumably to its third-party guarantor) for $ 40 million. The work was presented anonymously by Jose Maria Cano, a Spanish artist, collector and former member of the pop-rock group Mecano, who loved the legendary street artist so much that he even dedicated a song to him. The painting last appeared at auction in 1998, selling for $ 387,500, according to the Artnet pricing database, when Cano likely bought it, given that the work has been in the same collection since, according to Christie’s.

More contested, however, was the second Basquiat of the night, Flash in Naples (1983), which was anonymously recorded by Peter Brant and brought in $ 19.8 million, exceeding the high estimate of $ 18 million after fees.

Beeple, A HUMAN (2021), sold for $ 28.985 million. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Beeple’s kinetic sculpture-NFT combo also sparked interest, which grossed $ 28.9 million, almost double the estimate of $ 15 million. It was the artist’s first physical artwork best known for his NFT breakout which sold for $ 69 million in March, also at Christie’s.

Title A HUMAN, the rotating structure the size of a telephone booth fascinatingly combines both digital and physical and attracted at least three bidders. It ended up selling to a Swiss-based online auctioneer, which beat its competition in Hong Kong and the hall. He then revealed himself on Twitter as Ryan Zurrer, founder of alternative asset company Dialectic AG in Zug.

Unlike most auction lots, A HUMAN was provided directly by the artist, real name Mike Winkelmann, and guaranteed by Christie’s. It was also supported by an offer from a third party. The winner has the option to pay for the work in crypto, Christie’s said. Winkelmann, who will receive the proceeds from the sale, then walked into the room and placed several bids on an NFT work by Urs Fischer, which ultimately sold for $ 225,000 on phones.

that of Peter Doig flooded (1990), which was also backed by a third party, attracted only one bidder, represented by Rotter, and sold for $ 39.9 million, just above his unprecedented estimate of over $ 35 million. dollars, but nevertheless an artist record. The same buyer also bought the most expensive of Cindy Sherman’s three “Centerfolds” of the day for $ 3.15 million.

Despite the early hour for Hong Kong, Asian auctions have propelled prices up, especially for figurative works by younger artists. Interior upstairs (2019) by Hilary Pecis, estimated between $ 60,000 and $ 80,000, jumped to $ 870,000, secured by Hong Kong representative Elaine Holt. Countryside (2021) by Nicolas Party, proposed to raise funds for the New York AIDS Memorial, climbed to $ 3.3 million, more than 10 times its low estimate of $ 300,000, and was also bought by a customer Asian.

Hilaire Pécis, Interior upstairs (2019), sold for $ 870,000. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

The subsection “Image World: Property from a Private American Collection” accounted for a third of the lots in the auction, and the satisfactory if somewhat mixed results were perhaps closer to signaling the general condition and tastes of the auction. Marlet. The anonymous mailing was a labor of love from Abe Steinberger, a New Jersey neurologist who has collected for 25 years, focusing primarily on the artists of Pictures Generation. Out of a total of 41 pieces estimated at between $ 33.9 million and $ 49.7 million, the 13 that sold last night have already reached $ 36.5 million. To win the collection, Christie’s guaranteed Steinberger an undisclosed amount, then outsourced its risk to third parties through irrevocable offers.

The treasure included three major photographs from Sherman’s “Centerfolds” series, first offered in the same auction; four paintings by Christopher Wool, whose market has been unstable lately. The three wool paintings sold on unique offers to the guarantors. Sherman, surprisingly, did not explode, despite being represented by a series coveted by collectors just a few years ago. Kruger Untitled (Your manias become science) (1981), however, fetched an artist record of $ 1.2 million, above his high estimate of $ 700,000, and Richard Prince’s Untitled (Cowboy) (1997), from an edition of two plus an artist’s proof, reached $ 3 million in its first round on the auction block (it was estimated to be between 1.5 and 2.5 million of dollars).

As Rotter said, “At the end of the day, if you sell them before or after they sell, you sell them. It’s sold. “

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