As unpredictable as ever, bringing so many sets to auction at once was a risk for Sotheby's - one that saw celebrated works such as a Marilyn Monroe set, and Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom from the Reigning Queens series (normally the undisputed stars of the Andy Warhol portfolio) hammer comfortably within their estimates. Meanwhile lesser celebrated works such as the Renaissance series, Martha Graham and Ladies & Gentleman flew past their presale high estimates. It was an exciting sale with some strong results that predict demand across Warhol's diverse and ever relevant portfolio.
The private collection offered a rare opportunity to acquire a complete set with matching numbers - scarcity driving the fierce competition for these stunning works.
The ability for exceptional pieces to perform well almost entirely decoupled from financial markets or traditional assets & investments drives the competition in this exciting marketplace.
Notably, the more celebrated works, such as Marilyn and Queen Elizabeth delivered well, but it was the images of lesser renown that really smashed through their presale estimates, showing the strength of Warhol's diverse portfolio.
Here are the highlights from the sale.
Warhol's Martha Graham, the complete set of three screen prints in colour from 1986 hammered for double its high estimate at US$140,000 today. The lot doubled it's pre-sale estimate of US$50,000 - US$70,000.
The last time a complete set of Warhol's Martha Graham went through auction was in Japan for JPY14,000,000 (£87,388) including Buyers Premium in March this year. A set hadn't sold prior to this since 2017, where Phillips in New York offered and sold a set of three realising US$81,250.
Details of Renaissance Paintings (Leonardo da Vinci, The Annunciation, 1472) is a set that was, until recently, somewhat under-appreciated. Today it demonstrated its continued surge in popularity and relevancy by hammering at US$150,000, nearly double its presale high estimate.
Unsurprisingly demand may be reflected in the fact we can't find evidence that a complete set from this series has ever been through auction before. However, the last price for the main edition of 60, sold in 2017 at Sotheby's for £56,250.
Details of Renaissance Paintings (Paolo Uccello, St. George and the Dragon, 1460) represented another highlight from the sale for a work from Warhol's Renaissance subject matter.
The work hammered for US$110,000, on an estimate of US$60,000-80,000. An AP from this series as a complete set has only gone through auction once ever - and the main edition set, only twice. The last time we saw this through auction was in 2015, when it sold at Sotheby's in London for £42,500 including buyers premium. The work has tripled in value in the space of just 7 years - scarcity and demand driving value as ever.
The combination of two of the 20th century's biggest icons - Jagger & Warhol - still commands the attention of present day collectors with this complete set from 1975 fetching US$1,550,000, just above high estimate today.
Marking a turning point in Warhol's career where he switched to using his own photographs as the basis for his art, a set from this edition of 250 hammered in 2011 at Sotheby's New York for $300,000, and the most recent result was in 2020, where a set realised US$700,000.
Today's result further emphasises the continued strengthening of demand for work across Warhol's diverse portfolio.
Warhol's Ladies & Gentlemen is really having a moment in the market. The set hammered well over estimate at US$170,000, and has almost doubled in value since it last went through auction in 2019 - selling for US$90,000 at Christie's New York in 2019, £47,500 at Sotheby's London in 2017, and £23,750 at Christie's London in 2012.
This series is one to watch. As always Warhol's subjects tell a story specific to their time in popular culture, whilst becoming timeless in their relevance of today - perhaps none more so than his enigmatic Ladies & Gentleman series.
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