Back to work on the auction market

[11 Sep 2018]

After the summer break, a number of sales companies around the world – New York, London, Geneva and Zurich, among others – have published their sales calendars for the coming months. Although the overall calendar is not particularly busy, it has plenty of interesting events. Artprice takes a look at some of the highlights.


This Tuesday 11 September marks the opening of Asian Art Week, a well established rendezvous in New York’s cultural calendar. Open to all types of Asian creation, Asia Week is a unifying event for the city’s museums and galleries with special Asian programmes at the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan and the Brooklyn Museum as well as some fifty art galleries, generating a genuine synergy of discovery and exchanges between institutional and private entities. Auction houses are also in the thick of the action with sales dedicated to Asian arts – from calligraphy and other traditional paintings to Modern and Contemporary works – at Bonhams, Doyle, iGavel Auctions and of course the two majors, Christie’s and Sotheby’s. The week represents an excellent sales opportunity for Chinese, Korean and Japanese art, but also for Indian artists at Christie’s September 12 sale offering works by Akbar PADAMSEE and Tyeb MEHTA (two canvases estimated at over a million dollars each), Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain and Ram Kumar.

The new season’s first sale of Contemporary art will be held in New York on 25 September. Titled Contemporary Curated, the sale pursues Sotheby’s recently implemented and successful programme of “curated” sales. Several times a year, the company gives carte blanche to a leading personality from the world of art, music, cinema, business or fashion to select works for a major sale. The sale planned for 25 September will offer 189 lots in a wide range of estimates (from $3,000 to $200,000) and a selection of works by some of the hottest artists on the market at the moment including David Hockney, Donald Judd, On Kawara, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Grotjahn, Keith Haring, Beatriz Milhazes, Cindy Sherman, Robert Motherwell, George Condo, Wayne Thiebaud and Adriana Varejão. With all the major trends of Post-War and Contemporary creation represented – in a veritable mix of nationalities – this dense sale will no doubt attract a large number of potential buyers. The sale includes works from Art Brut, Conceptual art, Pop art, Abstract Expressionism, Art Photography (photographie plasticienne), Performance art, New Realism and late Surrealism, not to mention the highly buoyant Afro-American scene with artists like Kehinde WILEY and Kerry James MARSHALL… difficult to concoct a more broadly attractive mix


On 18 September Christie’s will focus on Swiss creation at its Zurich sale with works by Ferdinand Hodler, Giovanni Giacometti, Felix Valloton and Albert Anker and, at the end of the month, the auction house Koller will host a sale devoted to Old Master engravings, drawings and paintings. The highlight of the Koller sale is a canvas depicting an alchemist painted by Johannes MOREELSE, a Dutch painter born around 1602 (who died in 1634 in Utrecht) and who is extremely rare on the market. Only two of his paintings have been auctioned in 40 years but his Alchemist is a treasure of immense quality compared to what the market has seen so far. Unlikely to leave Old Master collectors indifferent, the painting was offered at the TEFAF in Maastricht 11 years ago. This time round the work is being offered with a price estimate $200,000 – $315,000.


In London the most anticipated sale is undoubtedly Yellow Ball: The Frank and Lorna Dunphy Collection, offering works from a collection assembled by Damien HIRST’s highly effective agent during the YBA’s golden years. Programmed for 21 September, the Sotheby’s sale will offer more than 200 works including an exceptional selection of works by Damien Hirst and his YBA peers. There is also a superb white canvas with three slashes by Lucio FONTANA. Measuring just 55 centimeters tall, this little gem is expected to fetch over a million dollars, having already crossed that price threshold ten years ago (Concetto Spaziale, attese fetched nearly $1.2 million at Sotheby’s in London on 27 February 2008).
So September kicks off the new season with a selection of stimulating sales offering a diversified range of works in terms of both type and price… a good market appetizer before the highly prestigious sales of October and November. Not all the catalogues are online, but sales companies have already started teaser campaigns on their star lots this autumn… and the mood is clearly optimistic after a particularly dynamic first semester 2018 that generated $8.45 billion in Fine Art auction turnover worldwide.