With New York’s prestige art sales fast approaching, we take a quick look at the catalogs

[10 May 2024]

The month of May, with New York’s prestige spring sales, is always a key moment for the international art market. Last year, the city generated no less than 1.9 billion dollars in just one week, of which 49% was hammered by Christie’s, 41% by Sotheby’s and 6% by Phillips. This year, the art auction market is hoping New York’s prestige sales will boost the international high-end market after a relatively calm start to the year.

Several works have the potential to generate eight-figure results: Sotheby’s will be offering Claude MONET’s Meules à Giverny” (1893) (estimate only available on request), René MAGRITTE’s Le Banquet, Leonora CARRINGTON’s Les Distractions, Pablo PICASSO’s Buste d’homme, Francis BACON’s Portrait of George Dyer, and a Lucio FONTANAConcetto spaziale. A painting jointly signed by Andy & Jean-Michel WARHOL & BASQUIAT might possibly generate the highest bid at Sotheby’s and set a new record for the duo. An imposing work from 1984, measuring approximately 3 x 4 meters, it has aroused great expectations and is carrying an estimate of $15 to 20 million. Almost fifteen years ago, Sotheby’s sold the work for $2.6 million at its first auction appearance.

At Christie’s, the Contemporary offer includes works by Brice MARDEN and Mark TANSEY that could both set new artists’ records on May 14 in excess of $10 million. There is also a Basquiat painting in the catalog. Christie’s 20th Century Art sale, scheduled for May 16, has around 15 works that could exceed $10 million, including paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, David Hockney, Alberto Giacometti, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet… among others. With an aggregate low estimate of $344 million, their May 16 sale is expected to be the most lucrative of the month. In addition to the usual sales of 20th and 21st Century Art, Christie’s will be hosting a sale of works from the remarkable collection of Rosa de la Cruz, a Cuban philanthropist and art collector based in Miami, who died last February. This exceptional collection has also generated much interest.

Focus on the Rosa de la Cruz collection

Rosa de la Cruz was a major figure in the Miami art scene. With her husband Carlos, they created a vast museum in Miami – the de la Cruz Collection – to share their passion for contemporary art. The collection has roughly one thousand works. Following her recent death at the age of 81, around 200 works from this unique collection will be dispersed at Christie’s in several installments, beginning with the first sale in May. These sales will feature works by renowned artists like Peter Doig, Mark Grotjahn, Martin Kippenberger, Christopher Wool and Christina Quarles.

The May 14 leg of this staggered sale will highlight twenty-six lots from the collection, some of which are more emblematic than others. Untitled” (America #3), a major work by Felix GONZALEZ-TORRES (1957-1996), is likely to set a new record for the artist with an estimate of between $8 and 12 million. This work is of particular importance, because it was by discovering the work of González-Torres in 1992 – focused on societal and political issues through sculptures made of materials from everyday life – that the de la Cruz couple modified their collection choice to focus on daring contemporary works.

Another symbolic record is expected for Ana MENDIETA. A Cuban émigré, like Rosa de la Cruz, Mendieta is best known for her performances and photographs capturing the interactions between her body and nature. The de la Cruz couple, fervent admirers of the artist, collected several of her pieces and even organized an exhibition entirely dedicated to Mendieta in 2015. At that time, Rosa de la Cruz had one of the largest collections of works of Ana Mendieta outside the artist’s family. It was a visionary choice, as the collector foresaw that Mendieta’s work, which highlights the healing nature of Mother Earth and the healing power of the female body, would one day be recognized as historically important. Mendieta’s major work presented in this sale – Untitled (Serie mujer de arena) – is a floor sculpture mixing earth and traces of the artist’s body. Carrying an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000, this work promises a significant boost to Mendieta’s market prices since her work has only once crossed the $200,000 threshold, particularly as this sale comes at a key moment for the re-evaluation of women artists on the art market.


Sotheby’s, selection of May sales

  • The Now Evening Sale, 13 May (18 lots)
  • Contemporary Evening Sale, 13 May (24 lots)
  • Modern Evening Sale, 15 May (49 lots)

Christie’s, selection of May sales

  • 21st Century Evening Sale, 14 May, (35 lots)
  • The Rosa de la Cruz Collection Evening Sale, 14 May (26 lots)
  • 20th Century Evening Sale, 16 May (63 lots)