A week of strong sales of Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art closed at Christie’s in New York on 18 May, having reached a combined total of $961,006,000 / £710,569,438, a 14 per cent increase over May 2017. The 20th Century auctions followed close on the heels of last week’s record-breaking sale of The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, which achieved $832 million, bringing Christie’s total for the two weeks in New York to an extraordinary $1.79 billion.
No fewer than 15 artist world records were set in the 20th Century season. Across the full two weeks of sales, bidders from 52 countries drove 33 lots to sell for over $10 million, with 18 lots selling for over $20 million and five lots selling for over $50 million.
As with the Rockefeller sales, philanthropy was at the heart of the 20th Century auctions. The Collection of Joan and Preston Robert Tisch — which included some of the most significant lots of the season — achieved a running total of $105,176,750 to benefit charitable foundations, with additional lots to come in the American Art and Latin American Art sales next week.
Ahead of the sales, new audiences were drawn to Christie’s through a global exhibition tour that spanned Hong Kong, London, Paris, Los Angeles, Beijing, Shanghai and New York, attracting some 85,000 visitors.
The week made a strong start on 15 May, with the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale achieving $415,852,500 / £307,355,876, with 99 per cent sold by value and 89 per cent sold by lot. Leading the auction was Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition, which realised $85,812,500/ £63,423,873, a world record for the artist. Also in that sale, a world record was achieved for Constantin Brancusi’s La jeune fille sophistiquée (Portrait de Nancy Cunard), which sold for $71,000,000 / £52,475,979.
The Impressionist & Modern Art Works on Paper and Day Sale closed out the category, with a total of $16,692,375 / £12,383,068 achieved for the former and $27,404,625 / £20,329,842 realised in the latter. The top lot of the Works on Paper sale, René Magritte’s L’amour de la nature, sold for $2,772,500/ £2,056,751, while the Day Sale was led by Pablo Picasso’s Buste d’homme, which made $1,572,500 / £1,166,543. Also in the Day Sale, an auction record was set for Dorothea Tanning’s The Temptation of St. Anthony, which achieved $1,152,500 / £854,970.
An online-only sale of Picasso Ceramics, which ran throughout the week, totalled $1,301,900/ £1,205,463 and was 100 per cent sold by lot — an outstanding result. The sale’s top lot, Tripode (A.R. 125), sold for $225,000.
On 17 May, the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale achieved an exceptional $397,159,500/ £293,539,911 for 64 blue-chip works by icons such as Francis Bacon, Mark Rothko, Joan Mitchell, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly and Jeff Koons. The sale was 91 per cent sold by lot and 93 per cent sold by value, with records set for artists including Joan Mitchell, George Condo, Morris Louis and Robert Gober.
The sale also featured the most significant collection of works by Richard Diebenkorn ever to come for auction, offered to benefit The Donald and Barbara Zucker Family Foundation. Overall, the selection realised a total of $46,068,750 and set two world records for the artist. Ocean Park #126, which sold for $23,937,500/ £17,692,166, made the world auction record for Diebenkorn, while a second auction record was achieved for a work on paper by the artist.
Rounding out the week, the Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning session achieved a total of $60,746,250 / £44,997,222. The Afternoon session realised $41,523,375/ £30,758,056, with world auction records set for works by Josh Smith, Jonas Wood, Alex Da Corte, Edmund de Waal and Aaron Garber-Maikovska.
Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s Americas, said, ‘It has been an honour to share in the philanthropic mission of the Rockefeller, Tisch and Zucker families this season, and the historic results achieved in the last two weeks are testament to the strong partnerships and collaborations across our teams. This has been an unforgettable season both for Christie’s and for the buyers and sellers who converged in our salerooms, including so many who were new to Christie’s and have now become part of our client community.’