Recently, Sotheby’s Day Sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art in New York totalled $79.4 million across a total of three live and online sales. For the first time, the Day Sales took centre stage as stand-alone auctions and Sotheby’s most prominent art sales in the month of November, with more than 300 works sold and 25 works achieving more than $1 million across the sales.
The Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale established a new Sotheby’s record for an online sale, achieving $30.5 million, more than doubling the previous record set by the Contemporary Art Day Sale in May, which achieved $13.7 million. The result follows the superlative results from the October Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York, which was 100% sold. Sotheby’s Online sales have achieved an astounding $437 million year to date, on track to record a 500% increase over the previous year.
Featuring many of the most in-demand and sought after artists in Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art, the Day Sales achieved several notable artist results, including auction records for assemblage artist Betye Saar, whose work is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York, and French Symbolist painter Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, as well as the second-highest auction result for Barkley L. Hendricks, whose top five auction prices have all been achieved at Sotheby’s. Additional artist records were achieved for Cuban artists Raúl Martinez, Eduardo Ponjuan, and René Francisco, as well as Venezuelan artist Genaro Moreno.
Coinciding with this week’s Day Sales, Sotheby’s single-owner auction Property from the Collection of Nelson Rockefeller: Eastern Traditions & Western Visions achieved $9.2 million, nearly three times the sale’s high estimate, with an astounding 95% sell-through rate. The sale was highlighted by two pairs of “Le Poing” sconces by Alberto Giacometti, achieving $1.9 and $1.8 million, each surpassing its high estimate of $350,000.
Sotheby’s sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art in New York continue in December with a new, cross-category auction that will bring together masterworks encompassing the most renowned artists from the late 19th century to the most in-demand contemporary artists working today. The marquee Impressionist, Modern & Contemporary Art | An Evening Sale will be held in New York and live-streamed to the world on Tuesday, 8 December. Highlighting the sale is Pablo Picasso’s masterful late-period painting Buste de Femme Assise, executed in 1962. The portrait captures Picasso’s beloved second wife Jacqueline Roque, who remained with him until his death in 1973, and is a timeless rendition has a force and freedom the artist only achieved in the last decade of his career.
CONTEMPORARY ART AUCTION HIGHLIGHTS
Online Auction Sale Total: $9 Million
Live Sale Total: $39.7 Million
Nicole Schloss, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Day Auctions of Contemporary Art in New York, commented: “This week’s resoundingly successful Day Sales of Contemporary Art were a showcase of works of the highest quality at all levels of the market, with solid results for leading post-war and contemporary artists including Helen Frankenthaler, Alexander Calder, Wayne Thiebaud, Keith Haring, Fernando Botero and more. Whether offered in a live or online auction, the results from the Day Sales were an affirmation that the market remains strong for both emerging and well-established artists.”
Max Moore, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Day Auctions of Contemporary Art in New York, said: “We are extremely pleased with the results of this week’s sales. Strong results continued for artists rising in the market, such as Barkley L. Hendricks, Matthew Wong, Titus Kaphar, and Jonas Wood, among others. It was also exciting to see works by the renowned Betye Saar, which rarely appear at auction, set new benchmarks at auction, far surpassing their high estimates. The Day Sale continues to be the premier platform for collectors to discover the most sought after artists of their time.”
Barkley L. Hendricks
Jackie Sha-la-la (Jackie Cameron) | 1975
Estimate $2/3 million
Sold for $2.8 million
The Contemporary Art auctions were led by Barkley Hendricks’s portrait of Jackie Cameron Jackie Sha-la-la (Jackie Cameron). The painting from 1975 epitomizes the most celebrated elements of Barkley’s career – technical mastery, narrative specificity, and an inimitable aura. A portion of the proceeds from the sale will benefit Art for Guernsey’s BLM exhibition and Artist in Residence program.
Giant Step | 1975
Estimate $1.2/1.8 million
Sold for $2.4 million
Helen Frankenthaler’s monumental Giant Step is a dramatic tour-de-force from the artist’s most celebrated period of production. Frankenthaler’s thirteen-foot masterpiece is distinguished by its inclusion in a number of the most significant exhibitions of Frankenthaler’s career, most notably as the centrepiece in the artist’s lauded 1975 show at Andre Emmerich Gallery in New York and in her highly acclaimed 1978 retrospective at Bennington College in Vermont.
Leda and the Swan |Conceived in 1996, Cast in 2018
Estimate $1.2/1.8 million
Sold for $2.4 million
Works by Fernando Botero also brought strong prices across both sales. A masterful play of volumes on a monumental scale, Fernando Botero’s Leda and the Swan is an iconic example of the artist’s mature sculptural practice. In the present work, Botero places himself in dialogue with the vast canon of Western art history, adapting a celebrated subject from Classical antiquity.
Single Triple Decker | 2004
Estimate $1.5/2 million
Sold for $2.3 million
Following Sotheby’s record-breaking sale of Wayne Thiebaud’s Encased Cakes in their Contemporary Art Evening Auction last November, the artist’s Single Triple Decker achieved $2.3 million in their Contemporary Art Day live auction, just two days after his 100th birthday. An exquisite example of the celebrated artist’s most mouthwatering and iconic paintings of sweet treats, the present work endures as a powerful tribute to the cultural consciousness of modern America. Recurring throughout Thiebaud’s oeuvre, the ice cream motif is represented in many of his most iconic works, repeatedly enticing the viewer to enjoy the tantalizing dessert.
ABCD Education | 2001
Sold for $81,900
Works by Betye Saar achieved multiples of their high estimates and set a world auction record for the artist in their Contemporary Art Day online auction. Saar’s ABCD Education achieved $81,900 – more than 2x its $30,000 high estimate, followed by Honey, which achieved $44,100 – nearly 3x its $15,000 high estimate. An exhibition of the artist’s work titled ‘Betye Saar: Call and Response’ is now on view at The Morgan Library and Museum in New York.
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART DAY SALE HIGHLIGHTS
Auction Total: $30.5 Million
Scott Niichel, Co-Head Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department in New York, and Head of Day Sale commented: “We are absolutely thrilled with the results from yesterday’s auction, which set a new record for an online sale at Sotheby’s. We were especially proud to see strong interest across the many private collections on offer, in particular the collections of Sandra Moss, Audrey Zauderer and John Richardson, which not only exceeded their high estimates but were 100% sold. Their results further signal that the top end, fresh to market private material will continue to find a place in our online sales. Among the works emerging from world-class museums, we were particularly honoured to be entrusted with paintings and works on paper from the Brooklyn Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which also went 100% sold. Sculpture by the most recognizable artists of the 20th century in the form of Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, and Henri Matisse, also performed exceptionally well – most clearly evidenced by the result for Salvador Dali’s Surrealist masterpiece Untitled (Le Pain et le vin) – which achieved the third-highest price for a sculpture by the artist at auction.”
Paysage montagneux | 1912
Sold for $2 million
RECORD FOR THE ARTIST AT AUCTION
The sale was led by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer’s monumental work, Paysage montagneux, which soared to $2 million after competition from six bidders – shattering its pre-sale high estimate by more than 8x and establishing a new auction record for the artist. Painted in 1912, the Symbolist artist depicts an alpine lake, shrouded in a misty haze of clouds but illuminated by the pink light of dusk or dawn. Pine trees along the shore are reflected in the mirror-calm lake, as are the jagged snow-capped cliffs seen at the top of the composition. The saturated, candy-colour hues and mystical atmosphere of the work define Paysage montagneux as one of Lévy-Dhurmer’s distinctive compositions. The work first appeared in the collection of successful industrialist and engineer Auguste Rateau (1863-1930) and was offered in the sale from the collection of John Richardson, the renowned art historian and award-winning biographer of Pablo Picasso.
Femme debout et vue de face agrafant son corset | Circa 1883
Estimate $1.2/1.8 million
Sold for $1.4 million
Pigmented in electric tones of blue, green and yellow, Femme debout et vue de face, agrafant son corset, is an exceptionally rare oil by Edgar Degas featuring the artist’s most recognizable subject of a ballet dancer—a theme which would come to define the artist and his later works. Degas cared little for depicting the more obvious splendour of a pirouette but rather for the off-duty dancer stretching, yawning or adjusting her clothing, as seen here with a young woman fastening her corset. Degas was keenly aware of the humanity of the dancers beyond their glamorous costumes and make-up. His behind-the-scenes participation allowed him access to details of the dancers’ practices that were otherwise unseen. By the late 1870s and into the 1880s he attended both performances and rehearsals, and he was well-known among the members of the company. With such privileged access, he could render them with his pastels in the midst of a staged production and in their more intimate moments when their movements were wholly unchoreographed.
Assiette de fraises & Nu assis
Fleurs dans les cheveux (Étude de nu)
Each estimated at $500/700,000
Each sold for $1.2 million
Following the successful sale of Pierre Bonnard’s Chevalier d’or from their Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in October, two of the artist’s oils once again took the spotlight in the auction, each selling for $1.2 million. Nu assis, Fleurs dans les cheveux (Étude de nu) reinterprets the classic theme of the female nude; a motif that would preoccupy Bonnard for much of his career. As with many of his best works, Bonnard depicts a quiet and contained interior, which serves as a place of repose for this female figure, believed to be his lover and eventual wife, Marthe de Méligny. The canvas vibrates with the colourful texture of fabrics and decorative patterns, most prominently in the blue screen that enlivens many of Bonnard’s interior scenes from this period. Assiette de fraises’ is a perfect example of the radical cropping and strong sense of visual rhythm which are hallmarks of Bonnard’s still lifes, a genre which suited his experimental approach to composition perfectly. The present work, gifted to his fellow Nabis artist Félix Vallotton in 1922, is one of the finest examples of its kind and has remained in a private collection for almost twenty years.
Untitled (Le Pain et le vin) | 1965-1970
Sold for $1.1 million A tour de force of Dalí’s sculpture practice, Untitled (Le Pain et le vin) far exceeded expectations, selling for $1.1 million – achieving the third-highest price for a sculpture by the artist at auction. Conceived and executed over a number of years, from 1965 to 1970, the lamp is exquisitely cast with 5.3 grams of 18-carat gold. Containing some of his most important and adored motifs – sea creatures, skeletons, turtles, bread and butterflies – this iconic sculpture is a unique work made specifically for Mafalda Davis, a former lady-in-waiting to Egyptian King Farouk’s consort, Queen Fawzia, who had a long-standing creative friendship with Dalí. The two collaborated on an incredible set of gold silverware, tabletop objects and other vivid gold-coloured items, many of which were sold at her estate sale in 1997 alongside the present work.