Christie’s sale: a quick look at some of the results

[13 Mar 2012]


On 7 March 2012, Christie’s in New York held a major Contemporary Art sale. The catalogue contained 252 lots of which 78% sold (196) generating $8.7m in revenue. The first 45 lots came from the collection of Peter Norton whose eclectic taste and safe choices produced some excellent results.

Beatriz Milhazes
The best result of the sale was for Nu Azul (1997 measuring 158.7 x 158.7 cm) by the Brazilian artist Beatriz MILHAZES. A Latin American collector fought to acquire the work for $520,000, tripling the original estimate. Milhazes’ work reminds one of Wassily KANDINSKY’s geometric compositions with the bold colors of Henri MATISSE, and Robert DELAUNAY’s simultaneous contrasts, condensing the best of modern abstract painting into Brazilian popular art. In fact Milhazes’ auction record was set by a work whose very title is itself a tribute to the Moderns: O Moderno fetched £600,000 [$957,840] at Phillips de Pury & Company on 27 June 2011).
In four years and 50 auction results (out of 70 works offered) the artist has emerged as one of the world’s 10 most sought-after female Contemporary artists (along with Cindy SHERMAN, Julie MEHRETU, Bharti KHER, Marlene DUMAS, Cecilia EDEFALK).

Ed Ruscha
Ed RUSCHA’s Blue Scream (1964) exploded its estimate of $150,000 – $200,000 fetching $460,000. Ed Ruscha’s prices took off like wildfire at the turn of the millennium. For example, in 1997 his painting Screaming In Spanish (1974) fetched $ 38,000. Five years later in May 2002 the same work sold for $300,000 (both results at Christie’s NY). Thereafter, Ruscha’s painted words become very popular, especially those from gas stations, his most popular series. Burning Gas Station set his auction record of $6.2m on 13 November 2007 at Christie’s, NY.

Jim Hodges
One of the best hammer prices of the day rewarded Jim HODGES whose aficionados appreciate his always meticulous work with nature and fundamental themes that have tremendous aesthetic power and beauty. The work presented, Here’s Where We Will Stay, fetched $400,000. This delicate piece, made of dozens of nylon, silk and chiffon scarves, constitutes a sensitive social patchwork, as light as a memory.
Another equally airy work, in cut fabric, triggered avid bidding at Sotheby’s sale of 9 November 2010 reaching $1.8m against an estimate of $500,000 – $ 700,000. Born in 1957 in the United States, Jim Hodges has received numerous artistic prizes. His entry into the auction world was relatively late, but his prices keep rising. His auction debut was at Phillips de Pury & Company in 2007 with a gossamer installation entitled Angels Voices (1993), a thin cobweb of chain silvered that fetched $420,000, already $120,000 above its high estimate.

Glenn Ligon
The result for Glenn LIGON’s Prologue Series #1 (Text from Ralph Ellison) was indeed a strong one at $290,000, against a pre-sale low estimate of $50,000. His Prologue series has become emblematic: writing – erasing – memory… the series is like a palimpsest evoking aesthetic, social, linguistic, racial, political, gender and sexual issues. This politically and socially committed body of work took on another dimension several months ago when Christie’s sold a painting just under one million dollars. Ligon’s (Untitled (Stranger in the Village #17)) fetched $980,000 against an estimate of $300,000 – $500,000 on 8 November 2011).

Fred Tomaselli
Four months after Fred TOMASELLI’s 7-figure record, the $150,000 – $200,000 estimate for his Multiple Landscape (1995) was perfectly acceptable for buyers. The piece sold for $220,000. The mammoth task involved in creating some of his works already attracted some very upscale collectors in 2007 with his first auction result above $500,000 (Gravity in Four Directions, fetched $800,000 at Christie’s NY on 13 November 2007).

Wade Guyton
The young Wade GUYTON (born 1972) is doing very well on the secondary market. Yet his auction debut only dates back to November 2008 (when a large untitled inkjet print fetched $110,000 on 13 November at Phillips de Pury & Company) and his auction record currently stands at £330,000 ($537,300, April 2011 at Christie’s London). At the recent 7 March sale, a large untitled print from 2006 sold for $350,500!

Elizabeth Peyton
Elizabeth PEYTON has made an impression on the art world with her ability to renew the portrait genre, with certain critics appointing her heir to the greatest portrait artists in art history. Her auction prices have already made such comparisons plausible since her works now compete with the prices of oil portraits signed Edgar DEGAS and Claude MONET! During the Christie’s sale, a portrait of Mark Webber (30.7 x 23.1 cm.) fetched $240,000, but the artist already has 7 results above $500,000 to her credit, including a record of $750,000 for Colin de Land (Christie’s, 8 November 2005, 152.4 x 101.6 cm) generating a much higher price than Monet’s last portrait submitted for auction (Portrait de Jeanne Serveau, 1880, fetched the equivalent of $457,000 at Christie’s in Paris on 20 May 2011).

Takashi Murakami
One of the sale’s big surprises rewarded Forest of DOB, a hallucinatory vision of Mister Dob under helium by Takashi MURAKAMI. The work was acquired by Peter Norton in 1998, the same year that Murakami made his timid auction debut with a large helium-filled DOB that reached its low estimate of £2,600 ($4,400). Meanwhile, Murakami has become the most coveted Japanese artist and his prices have rocketed… so much so that a collector paid $210,000 for Forest of DOB against an estimate of $40,000 – $60,000!

At its 7 March sale Christie’s also offered an installation by Yinka SHONIBARE: a reconstituted reception room, mixing African and Victorian Culture (Victorian Philanthropist’s Parlour). Although cumbersome, the work was still a good deal at $80,000 against an estimate of $120,000 – $180,000.
Another bargain in this price range was an installation in silk Seoul Home/L.A. Home: Bathroom (artist’s proof from an edition of three) by the Korean artist Do Ho SUH which was acquired for $70,000 versus $105,000 in 2009 (Christie’s 11 November 2009). The price of his silky architecture is nevertheless rising, especially since a result of $200,000 for a work entitled Gate in December 2010 at Sotheby’s.

This prestige sale also provided lots of opportunities for affordable indulgence at under $10,000 with Marble Floor #32 by Wim DELVOYE fetching $8,000 (a single copy measuring nearly two metres – Peter Norton Collection), drawings by the great German artist Kiki SMITH (female version of Oh fetching $6,500, while the male sold for $5,000), and a sculpture entitled Twice by Teresita FERNANDEZ that was acquired for $8,000 (1 of 8 editions – Peter Norton Collection).