The first results of the season…



The art market woke from its summer break in late September, in New York, with the season’s first Contemporary art sales, followed a few days later by major photography sales. The results were good for the mainstays of Modern photography like Man Ray, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Frank, Alfred Stieglitz, Lazlo Mooly-Nagy, Irvin Penn and Alexandro Rodchenko, who all fetched results in the $100,000 to $500,000 range. Helmut Newton, the star of the Triple XXX sessions at Christie’s, also sold in that range. There were even better results for the « very » Contemporary artists whose works were offered a few days earlier by Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s “Good to go” sale of Contemporary art on September 24, 2014, which included works from the collection of Joni Gordon (Newspace gallery), totaled $28.2m including fees, with 80% of the lots sold(a relatively low bought-in rate). The sale was therefore successful, beating the overall turnover estimate and indicating buoyant demand. According to Sotheby’s, 10% of the bidders in the sale placed their bids “online” and there was significant demand from American investors, but also from Asian and Latin American buyers.
Good to go” offered a particularly rich collection of works by Vija CELMINS, to whom Sotheby’s owes three of the four 7-digit results in the sale … Works by Celmins, an American artist of Latvian origin, born in 1939, have been rapidly rising in value for two years. The three new 7-digit records she signed on September 24 generated $6.9m which is $2.3m more than her total auction turnover for 2013 ($4m). Her new record is $2.9m (or $3.4m incl. fees) for a 1965 canvas titled Burning Plane, which doubled its high estimate of $1.2m. Indeed, at the latest sale, Celmins did better than Keith HARING who is more coveted than ever before. A painting by Haring (Untitled (September 14, 1986) set a new record of $4.2m in May at Sotheby’s. This time, a large Untitled canvas by Keith Haring from 1988 reached $2.3m ($2.75m incl. fees).
The other good results from the September 24 sale include $420,000 ($509,000 including fees) for a drawing entitled 18th and Highland, National City by John BALDESSARI against an estimate of $180,000 – $250,000.

Christie’s start to the new season in New York on September 23 was somewhat less impressive than its rival’s, with an overall total of $11.2 million including fees ($17 million less than Sotheby’s total). The highest bid went to a work by Joe BRADLEY, a new darling of the American art scene, whose Berlin Duck #2 painting (2011) fetched no less than $720,000 ($869,000 incl. fees). This is Bradley’s second highest auction result; his record of $800,000 ($965,000 incl. fees, for a mixed technique work entitled Blonde, also dated 2011) was signed at Christie’s previous Contemporary art sales in May 2014.
Indeed, Joe Bradley, aged 39, did better at the latest Christie’s sale than Julian SCHNABEL, a leading figure of the American scene, born in 1951. And Schnabel has also been the subject of strong demand over the last two years and even scored his first million-dollar result last May at Sotheby’s (his 800 Blows fetched $800,000 or $ 1.2m including fees on May 14). Schnabel generated the second highest bid at Christie’s September 23 sale with a large mixed-technique work entitled The Conversion of St Paolo Malfi that fetched $350,000, one of the artist’s Top 10 results.
As for KAWS (born in 1974) whose 2008 canvas Fury fetched $240,000 ($293,000 incl. fees), it was his third auction record in less than 12 months. At 40, Kaws has been boosted by the positive impact of a recent New York exhibition at the Perrotin Gallery and by being acquired by high-media-profile collectors, including Pharrell Willams. In fact, the new darlings of the market, Joe Bradley and Kaws, generated more turnover than Robert Indiana and Andy Warhol at Christie’s first autumn sale.
An even younger artist, David OSTROWSKI, was born in Germany in 1981 and graduated from the Dusseldorf Academy of Fine Arts where he studied under Albert Oehlen. He has already been presented by Simon Lee, Peres Projects, Almine Rech and White Cube of Sao Paulo, and already has 11 results above the $100,000 threshold to his name since his first exposure to the secondary market in February 2014! Ostrowski’s runaway success has given him 167th place in our Top 500 Contemporary Artists ranking (see’s 2013-2014 Contemporary Art Market Report).