After London, Contemporary art sales in New York



After the year’s first major sales in London – with a number of new auction records – New York is currently preparing its prestigious Post-War & Contemporary Art sales in a more uncertain economic and financial climate. In spite of the stock market downside, the art market has remained buoyant since the beginning of the year and the sales will undoubtedly attract buyers, especially as they coincide with New York’s prestigious Frieze Art Fair (5 to 8 March 2016).

A couple of days before the Frieze opens, Phillips is kicking off the proceedings on 29 February 2016 with a sale entitled New Now, containing 27 handpicked lots. Among the de rigueur signatures – also included in Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales a few days later – there will be works by Mark GROTJAHN, KAWS, Yayoi KUSAMA and Ugo RONDINONE, all expected to generate six-digit results. This year, however, Christie’s and Sotheby’s have reverted to their cautious lower-price-bracket strategy and their sales on 3 and 4 March will include a total of nearly 700 works. This contrasts with their deliberately minimalist approach in London at the start of the year. Their New York sales will include the market’s most in-demand signatures with a selection of significant works, but without 7- or 8-digit pretensions. The offer has been adapted to a less favourable economic context with greater diversity, greater density, and high quality… but without high prices.

Sotheby’s curated Contemporary art sale

Sotheby’s has decided to pursue its “curated sales” formula which aims to enhance the overall image and trendiness of the selection on offer. The principle is simple and effective: the sales company invites curators to select works. In addition, Sotheby’s has engaged a number of advisors for its 3 March sale of 226 lots, including Helena Skarstedt from the Skarstedt Gallery, Amar’e Stoudemire, Stephanie Mark and Simon Doonan. Apart from Helena Skarstedt these advisors are known for their contributions to the world of fashion and sport… but not art. Sotheby’s is therefore seeking to broaden its horizons beyond the usual Contemporary art experts. The selection includes a wide price range to attract a wide range of enthusiasts, including affordable works for less than $5,000 (David Budd, Paul Staiger, Ross Bleckner and Ernesto Neto). The highest estimates are for a sculpture by Anish Kapoor (White dark VIII) and a painting by Sam Francis (Deux magots) each expected to cross the threshold of $500,000. A second “Contemporary curated” sale is scheduled for 15 March in London with other major signatures, including Yves Klein, Christopher Wool and Alex Katz.

Christie’s is offering 345 lots at the Rockefeller Center

The following day, Christie’s will is holding a long sale with an entry price of just a few hundred dollars (for a sculpture from an edition of 30 by Arnaldo POMODORO and a painting by Gary STEPHAN). The selection looks highly varied, but still includes a number of currently in-vogue signatures like Chris OFILI, Marlene DUMAS, Roberto MATTA, Nan GOLDIN, Cindy SHERMAN and Jean DUBUFFET, all offered with estimates below $30,000. The star lot, reproduced on the catalogue cover, is Josef ALBERS Homage to the Square: Orange Tone (1963) expected to generate between $500,000 and $700,000 after spending 50 years in the same private collection. More surprisingly, a nearly 4-metre high sculpture (Untitled, 2000-2001) by Joel SHAPIRO is being offered in the same price range, a potential new record for Shapiro, who also has three other works in the same sale. The American artist is currently enjoying market upside, but his auction record has not been refreshed for almost 20 years ($607,500 for an untitled sculpture sold at Christie’s New York on 7 May 1997). As for, Josef Albers, the artist’s rising market prices are likely to trigger upside on the work of a number of other artists associated with him. An uncompromising and essential figure of 20th century art, Albers traversed Bauhaus and Black Mountain College and is nowadays considered a blue-chip artist on the Western market. His prices have risen sharply since 2000 (+442%) and his work generated five results above the million-dollar threshold between 2006 and 2014. Yayoi KUSAMA is one of the sale’s leading triumvirate with Early Spring (2004) estimated $300,000 to $400,000. Ranked 42nd in our 2015 ranking of global artists by annual auction turnover, Kusama is the world’s best selling female artist. In 2015, her annual turnover exceeded that of Louise BOURGEOIS (60th position with $38.8 million, versus Kusama’s $57.2 million).

Alexander CALDER is, at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the most represented artist of the week. Christie’s has 11 Calder lots (10 drawings and a sculpture estimated $200,000 – $300,000, Conical Gussets in private hands since the late 1960s) while Sotheby’s has no less than 30 Calder works, from a pair of swirling buttons ($15,000 – $20,000) to three sculptures expected to fetch more than $300,000 each. Calder, ranked 16th by annual turnover in 2015, is bound to sell well: his price index is up 592% since 2000 and three of his works have crossed the $10 million threshold since 2012.