Art Market : The Contemporary Art bonanza continues !

At the finish line of the major November sales the American auction company, Sotheby’s, confirmed its leadership of the Impressionist & Modern segment with its best-ever sales total of $422.1 million including fees (vs. $165.6 million from the corresponding sale at Christie’s) while its British rival, Christie’s, once again proved its dominance of the Contemporary segment with, for the third time in just one year, the best sales total ever recorded in history: $852 million including fees, with a sold rate of 94%. Sotheby’s Contemporary Art sale generated $343.6 million with a sold rate of 85.9%.

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Almost a habit, Christie’s wrote yet another page in the history of auctions at its Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening on November 12, 2014 in New York with a series of spectacular results totaling more than $852 million in turnover including fees (vs. an estimated total range of $695m – $738m ).  The sale attracted more than 500 bidders from 43 countries and generated 11 new world records, three results above $50m, and 23 beyond the 10m threshold. No less than 38% of the lots fetched above their high estimates … After the sale, Christie’s CEO, Stephen Murphy, spoke of a historic event, and evidence of profound interest in Contemporary Art worldwide. Access to artworks has become one of the universal quests of our time.

The dominance of Warhol

Christie’s best two results were generated by Andy WARHOL – a central pillar of the sale with several major works on offer – including the highly anticipated Triple Elvis [ Ferus Type] 1963, which fetched $73 million ($81.9 m incl. fees). Not a new Warhol record, which belongs to another 1963 work Silver Car Crash (Double disaster) that fetched $94m ($104.5m) in November 2013 at Sotheby’s, Triple Elvis [Ferus Type] is a rare piece that had remained in his personal collection since 1977. It was one of the many lots for which Christie’s guaranteed the price with the seller.
Three Elvises on the same canvas are apparently worth more than four Marlon Brandos which generated the second-best result of the evening. Like Triple Elvis, the 1966 work Four Marlons was also an auction virgin before being offered at Christie’s November 12 sale. Once again, the bidding was fierce until the final hammer at $62m ($69.6m incl. fees). Four Marlons is now Warhol’s fourth most expensive canvas.

On November 11, Sotheby’s managed to generate the best-ever price for a Liz Taylor when Liz # 3 (Early Colored Liz) fetched $28m ($31.5 incl. fees) and it sold Warhol’s portrait of Brigitte Bardot for $10.25m ($11.6m incl. fees) implying a value accretion of over $100,000 per year since a similar canvas (Brigitte Bardot, 1974) fetched $9.4m ($10.6m incl. fees) at Christie’s in London on February 8, 2007.
Sotheby’s experts were hoping for an even better result for the French cinema icon with a high estimate of $15m. Indeed, while Warhol certainly continues to generate spectacular performances, there can be disappointment when re-valued prices are too high: nobody, for example, dared to bid to the low estimate of $25 million for his large format self-portrait at Christie’s (Self-Portrait1986, measuring 203 x 203 cm) despite the fact that $25 million (excl. fees) was paid for a 1 meter Warhol self-portrait in 2011. Another self-portrait measuring 102 x 102 cm offered at Sotheby’s the previous day stopped at $10m versus an estimate of $12 – 18 million.
Nevertheless, between 10 and 13 November 2014, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips and Swann Gallery submitted more than 100 Warhol works for sale, and neither the supply, nor the demand, nor the prices paid showed any signs of fatigue.

New records…

Christie’s November 12 sale set a number of stunning new records for some of the market leaders:

New summits were also reached for Martin KIPPENBERGER ($22.5m incl. fees), Georg BASELITZ ($7.445m), Yayoi KUSAMA ($7.1m), Cindy SHERMAN ($6.773m), Mark TANSEY($5.765m), Elaine STURTEVANT ($3.413m), and the young Seth PRICE who now boasts a record of $785,000 aged just 41.

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