Review of Christie’s and Sotheby’s recent New York sales


The month of May is traditionally one of the most important periods of the year for the global art auction market, with Christie’s and Sotheby’s New York sales offering the very best 20th and 21st century art they can find. This year, the two world-leading auction houses generated over 1.7 billion US dollars in a few days. Artmarket by Artprice looks back over the key results over the past month.

Christie’s hammered just under $922.2 million in one week

Christie’s kicked off its major New York sessions on May 11 with the third chapter of “Masterpieces from the S.I. Newhouse Collection”, the collection belonging to the former CEO of Condé Nast. Featuring works by Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning and Pablo Picasso, the sale generated $177.792 million, while their immediately-following evening sale of 20th Century Art took $328.779 million. Christie’s therefore totaled $506.6 million on May 11, although the same session a year earlier (12 May 2022) generated $832.2 million.

The best result on May 11 was hammered for a work by LE DOUANIER ROUSSEAU titled Les Flamants (1910), a canvas painted the same year the artist died. Highly anticipated, Les Flamands sold for $43.5 million which is ten times higher than Rousseau’s previous auction record (for Portrait de Joseph Brummer, 1909).

Douanier Roussier: geographic distribution at auction since 2000 (copyright

Four days later, Christie’s hosted a highly successful prestige sale of 21st Century Art (15 May) at which 96% of the lots sold. Starring works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cecily Brown and Yayoi Kusama, it generated $98.8 million. The selection of works on offer highlighted female artists with more than 50% of the lots by women, including key works by Simone Leigh, Cecily Brown and Yayoi Kusama.

On 17 May, the first part of Gerald Fineberg’s extraordinary collection, spanning a century of creation, generated $153 million. Comprised of Modern, Post-War and Contemporary masterpieces, the sale set five new artist records. The following day Christie’s hosted a second session of works from the Gerald Fineberg’s Collection that took another $44.113 million, taking the total amount from the Fineberg Collection to $197.16 million.

In total, Christie’s took a total of $922.194 million during its week of New York sales of 20th and 21st Century Art. The bidding was animated by bidders from around twenty countries, in addition to those present in the room. Thirty-four new auction records were set, including 15 for female artists including Agnes Pelton, Alma Thomas and Diane Arbus.

Sotheby’s posts a total of $799 million with strong bids from Asia

The seven sales hosted by Sotheby’s in New York took a total $799 million. There were a number of important works from private collections (notably 15 lots from the Mo Ostin Collection, the legendary music producer), but also works by women and culturally diverse artists, very much in line with current trends. Although ten works crossed the USD 20 million threshold, we note the excellent results for Gustav KLIMT’s Insel im Attersee ($53.2 million) and René MAGRITTE’s L’Empire des lumières ($42.2 million).

René Magritte: price index at auction (copyright

Among the most notable acquisitions made by major museums was that of Vilhelm HAMMERSHOI’s painting Interior. The Music Room, Strandgade 30, which nearly doubled its high estimate and joined an American museum for $9.1 million, a new auction record for the eminent painter of meditative interiors. Its provenance will have contributed to the enthusiasm as the canvas was kept on the same wall for over 75 years in the former apartment that Vilhelm Hammershøi occupied in Copenhagen with his wife Ida from 1898 to 1908.

Sotheby’s has also proudly declared that a number of Asian museums and collectors made major acquisitions during its sales week. In its press release, Sotheby’s specifies that collectors from Asia generated more than a third of the total value of its prestigious Modern Art sale, acquiring Gustav Klimt’s Insel im Attersee and works by Vincent van Gogh ($23.3 million), Paul Gauguin ($10.4 million), Claude Monet ($5.8 million), Henri Matisse ($4.7 million), Camille Pissarro ($2.8 million), Edvard Munch ($2.7 million) and Édouard Manet ($2.5 million).

At their Contemporary Art sale, the Now Evening Auction, a veritable barometer of the most exciting artists on the market, works by black artists generated $20.5 million, or more than 55% of the sale’s total turnover ($37.2 million).

Louise Bourgeois: evolution of her record at auction (copyright

This was immediately followed by their Contemporary Evening Auction which was led by an outstanding example of Louise BOURGEOIS’ famous Spider, her fourth monumental spider to be auctioned. The version offered by Sotheby’s had been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo for more than 20 years. Its sale for $32.8 million sets a new record for Louise Bourgeois, and it was also the highest price ever paid for a sculpture by a female artist and the third highest auction price ever paid for an artwork by a woman.