Everyone is confused about the return of the art market after the evening sales in the three big houses in New York brought in $ 2.3 billion in two weeks. With the excitement and drama of a giga-watt divorce sale courtesy of Macklowes and a freshly enthusiastic crowd of cryptopopulists tuning in to Sotheby’s to try to bid for a copy of the US Constitution thrown into the mix, it managed to feel both unique 2021 and looking back to market heights not seen since before the times.
That said, the most exciting action actually took place outside of the choreographed-to-perfection evening sales. If you’re hoping to see some actually surprising results and gain fresh insight into where the market is headed, it’s these bigger, less curated sales that are worth seeing.
The Artnet News Pro team searched the results to bring you six lots that stood out among the hundreds offered during the day sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips.
Two Bathers (2021)
Auction: Christie’s, Postwar and Contemporary Art Day Sale, November 12th
Discretion: $ 5,000- $ 8,000
Sold for: $ 287,500
This intimate oil on linen by Danielle Orchard was sold for a full 57.4 times the low estimate. Orchard paints female nude paintings that are recognizably influenced by the style of 20th-century male painters like Picasso and Modigliani, but which interfere with their objectifying tendencies. This whimsical work depicts a woman smoking in a bathtub, but the painting is called provocative Two Bathers and its motif looks directly at the viewer, who is located at the other end of the bathtub, interrupting what might otherwise have been a voyeuristic scene.
The success of the painting could be attributed to several factors; first, it was the auction debut for the sought-after artist (currently Orchard has his first solo show in Asia at Perrotin Seoul). Second, there was a charitable component to the sale; the artist donated the work to raise money for the public art fund.
Costa Brava (1966)
Auction: Christie’s, Postwar and Contemporary Art Day Sale, November 12th
Discretion: $ 80,000- $ 120,000
Sold for: $ 462,500
This work by AbEx painter Grace Hartigan brought in $ 462,500, almost six times the low estimate, and the second highest price her work has ever auctioned (a slightly earlier work from 1962 was sold at Christie’s New York evening sale in May for $ 687,500. ).
There has been a boom in demand for Hartigan’s work in recent years amid a market rise for female abstract expressionists as collectors and institutions seek to correct gaps in their fundraising history. (Her top 15 results at auction have all happened within the last five years, and seven of the top ten results have been achieved in 2021.) An addition to the appeal is perhaps a fresh-to-market quality, as this marked the first time, the work appeared at auction since the sender acquired it from New York’s Tibor de Nagy Gallery – giving Hartigan her first solo exhibition in 1951.
I can see you (2020)
Auction: Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Art Day Sale, November 18th
Discretion: $ 40,000- $ 60,000
Sold for: $ 252,000
Ness’ paintings – which often depict people sitting at cluttered tabletops, reading the newspaper or looking at their phones – are similar to what could happen if a deceased David Hockney had a thousand-year-old baby with an early Nicole Eisenman. Just two years after Yale’s School of Art, she’s been featured in tasting shows at Harper’s Books, Anton Kern and Blum & Poe – and is already seeing her work put up for auction for six-figure sums. This painting by the artist’s studio was sold at her solo exhibition at the Nino Mier Gallery in Los Angeles last summer. (Another example depicting two hands doodling on top of a newspaper fetched $ 89,460 from Phillips in June.)
Ness’s rising market profile is also evident in her Artnet Price Database search history: This time last year, her name drew zero searches, but last month that number rose to 23. The rush makes sense given that there is a very long waiting list for her work in the primary market. Paintings in her sold-out solo show in Marguo, Paris (through November 27) run between € 8,000 and € 60,000 ($ 9,000 to $ 67,150); half were sold to museums and foundations, including the Shanghai Long Museum.
Mountain landscape (1912)
Auction: Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Sale, November 19th
Discretion: $ 150,000- $ 250,000
Sold for: $ 1.96 million
It is rare these days to see a work created in the first half of the 20th century surpass its estimate by 880 percent. But that is exactly what happened to this painting the size of a painting by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, a French artist associated with the symbolist and art nouveau movements, who is as well known for his ceramics as for his paintings.
In addition to its monumental size, this work also had its origins: it was originally commissioned by the engineer and art connoisseur Auguste Rateau and was sold at Sotheby’s by the estate of the art historian and Picasso cinematographer John Richardson, who died in 2019. The painting was originally part of a broader design for Rateau’s apartment in Paris. While the contents of the residence were subsequently auctioned off, the dining room, better known as the Wisteria Room, was purchased by (and is still present at) the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another work by Lévy-Dhurmer was sold at Sotheby’s Modern Art Day on November 17 for $ 163,800, more than double the high estimate of $ 70,000.
Untitled (The view from beyond the switches) (1988-94)
Auction: Phillips, 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, November 18th
Discretion: $ 300,000- $ 400,000
Sold for: $ 1.02 million
The resounding sale of this classic Pettibon wave painting serves as a de facto confirmation that the Christian Rosa counterfeiting scandal did not harm – or perhaps even help – Raymond Pettibon’s market.
The sale of this work now falls under the ten most expensive works sold by the artist at auction, a group that is 100 percent composed of wave paintings. The most expensive one brought in $ 3.4 million at Phillips’ evening sale the night before the day sale, which may have boosted confidence in the investment potential of this more diminutively scaled work.
Actual queen (2020)
Auction: Phillips, 20th Century and Contemporary Art Day Sale, November 18th
Discretion: $ 5,000- $ 7,000
Sold for: $ 81,900
Actual queen (2020), an expressive acrylic, charcoal, chalk and oil pastel on canvas, amazed by hammering more than ten times the high estimate. Saheed lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria, and is part of a generation of figurative painters who put black bodies in the foreground and pay homage to black identity and culture. In the tumultuous year that Actual queen was created, he told Fad Magazine that he approached the canvas “with a lot of bottled emotions.”
Ththe success of the young artist – and he is very young, born in 1998 – auction debut can be attributed to the fact that he is part of a budding group of new artists from Nigeria, which demands attention at a time when a lot of discussion has revolved around Ghanaian artists. The work was acquired directly from the artist by the sender, and Saheed’s career has been on an upward trajectory since he was represented this year by the Nanzuka Underground Gallery in Tokyo, which brought his work to Art Basel Hong Kong in May last year, and where he has just closed its first solo exhibition ever at the gallery.
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