20th/21st Century Week: Auction Highlights
Post-War to Present Bluechip Masters

Image © Sotheby's / Debbie Harry by Andy Warhol - MyArtBrokerImage © Sotheby's / Debbie Harry © Andy Warhol 1980
Rebecca Marsham

Rebecca Marsham, Sales Director[email protected]

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Bluechip masters have yielded strong results at 20th/21st Century auction sales in London and New York this week. With particularly impressive results from: Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Alex Katz, Bridget Riley, David Hockney, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, and STIK. Artist markets across American Pop, Post-War & Contemporary and Street & Urban Art continue to grow in value, attesting to the investable nature of art.

In the past week, collectors gathered at Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips for 20th/21st Century Week sales. The comprehensive series of sales ranged from prints and editions to blockbuster originals. With record prices achieved by a range of bluechip artists, Andy Warhol was the undisputed star of the week - with sales soaring high above their high estimates across the three auction houses.

Also performing particularly well were David Hockney, Bridget Riley, and Damien Hirst - alongside other Post-War & Contemporary household names. The overwhelmingly positive results across this week's auctions are proof in point that these artists' markets are continuing to thrive in 2023, despite the tightening economic climate. As fine art has just overtaken wine as the top-performing collectable investment asset, these sales are testament to healthy growth in the market and the opportunities available in art as an alternative asset.

Here are the highlights from the auctions:

ANDY WARHOL

The Andy Warhol market continues to provide spectacular auction results, consolidating its status as one of the most significant markets, and certainly of any Pop Artist. Warhol’s week in auction began strong with his 1980 silk screened canvas of Debbie Harry was up for auction at Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction in London on the 1st March.

The mixed media work, one of only four colour variations, is visually striking given the bubblegum pink that Warhol dyes the singer’s famously blonde hair. The Warhol original exceeded its generous high estimate of £6 million, selling for an impressive £6,599,300. Last sold at auction in summer of 2011, also at Sotheby’s in London, it then realised £3,737,250, falling within its presale estimates of £3,500,000 - 5,500,000.

Many other Andy Warhol works exceeded their estimates, however: at Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale on the 3rd March, a drawing by Warhol titled Querelle (1982) more than doubled its high estimate of £30,000, selling instead for £72,390. The work belongs to the more intimate body of work produced by Warhol through the 80s, centering on young couples; sitting nicely alongside Warhol’s print series Love, the work, which translates to “quarrel”, shows a tender moment post-spat between a young, gay couple.

Querelle by Andy Warhol - MyArtBrokerImage © Phillips / Querelle © Andy Warhol 1982

When it came to Warhol’s prints’ performance at auction this 20th Century week, several surpassed their high estimates, and performed impressively in context of their auction history. New Coke, a 1985 unique screen print, surpassed a high estimate of $30,000, selling for $47,880 at Christie’s New York Contemporary Edition, featuring the Collection of Kenwal Steel in Support of GLAAD.

Eternally popular, thanks to its celebrity model and encapsulation of Warhol’s colour-blocked portraiture style, Grace Kelly (1984) from the edition of 225 sold for $70,500 more than its estimate, achieving $190,500 at Sotheby’s hugely significant Contemporary Curated sale in New York on the 9th.

Of all the impressive hammer prices of Andy Warhol’s prints and multiples this week, the most exciting was arguably the new auction record of $69,300 for Warhol’s The Shadow (1981). Belonging to Warhol’s print series Myths, one of Warhol’s most sought-after portfolios, the print is from a unique edition of 32. It is the only existing print of its particular colourway. The previous record price for the piece was $52,920, set via Christie’s Online in December 2022; the rapid surpassing of records for this work speaks to its present popularity, and to that of works from select Warhol portfolios (Myths being one).

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KEITH HARING

Keith Haring, notorious celebrity of the 1980s New York City art scene with the ability to connect with audiences through his charismatic and timeless aesthetic. Haring’s art market is currently up and his works are considered some of the most influential and valuable in Contemporary Art.

Haring’s March auction performance was most notable in Christie’s Contemporary Edition New York Sale, producing an 89% sell-through rate with 30% of lots selling above estimate. Among these works was Haring’s Pop Shop I, Plate IV (1987), a colourful screen print depicting three of Haring’s iconic figures. Two teal bodies on the outer edges support a smaller yellow figure propped upon their knees as all three celebrate with their arms raised in the air. This work realised $40,320 (fees included), landing 34% above its high estimate.

Also a notable sale was Haring’s Pop Shop IV: Plate II. This work most recently appeared in SBI Auctions, Tokyo achieving 2.3 millon (JPY) approximately $14,325. At Christies, on March 8th, this work realised $37,800, 2.6 times it’s previous amount and marking its highest sale to date.

Haring’s Pop Shop drawings are iconic works that transformed his aesthetic into the cultural phenomenon that it is. The series consists of twelve drawings that represent his visual vocabulary and has contributed to Haring’s market growth and investment potential.

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Snow Scene 1 by Alex Katz - MyArtBrokerImage © Christie's / Snow Scene 1 © Alex Katz 2002

ALEX KATZ

Alex Katz, the American figurative painter, saw several successful results throughout the Post-War and Contemporary sales.

Christie’s London kicked off the first with their Post War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on Wednesday, 1st of March. Although a departure from his most recognisable imagery, Katz’s Snow Scene 1 (2002) hammered at £35,000, 75% against its high estimate of £20,000 and realised £44,100 (fees included).

Purple Ada by Alex Katz - MyArtBrokerImage © Christie's / Purple Ada © Alex Katz 1995

Sotheby’s London delivered their Modern & Contemporary Day Sale the following day on Thursday, 2nd of March. The sale offered Katz’s Purple Ada (1995), a later painting of his most commonly recognised muse, his wife. This work is evidence of Katz’s signature portraiture aesthetic, a closely cropped image that exudes figurative modernism through carefully composed brushstrokes of uniform line and colour. This work realised £254,000, a staggering 3-times its high estimate of £80,000.

Twelve Hours 2 by Alex Katz - MyArtBrokerImage © Christie's / Twelve Hours 2 © Alex Katz 1985

Continuing a streak of success, Katz had additional notable performances in Christie’s New York, Post-War to Present sale, presented on Friday, 10th of March. First offered was Katz’s ‘Orange Chair’ (1950), well exceeding its high estimate of $120,000 by 1.3 times and realising $163,800 (fees included), a triumphant outcome for the work’s debut auction appearance. Katz donated this work, and the sale proceeds will benefit the charitable organisation, The Poetry Project.

In the same sale, ‘Twelve Hours 2’ (1985) was presented next as a return to Katz’s traditional figurative aesthetic. ‘Twelve Hours 2’ depicts three men in suits amidst a professional and confirmed transaction. Also marking a first-time appearance at auction and set to achieve $70,000-$100,000, this work smashed its high estimate 2.4-times, realising $239,400 (fees included).

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Study for 'Day and Night' Revision B - MyArtBrokerImage © 2023 Christie's Auction House / Study for 'Day and Night' Revision B © Bridget Riley 2003

BRIDGET RILEY

English painter Bridget Riley, luminary of the Op Art movement, has seen her market peak in recent years. Several works were presented throughout the March sales with notable performances at Christie’s London.

First offered at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on the 1st of March was Riley’s Study for 'Day and Night’ Revision B (1931). This work, a rhythmic abstraction of blue, teal, and yellow, lozenges which mark an ambitious period in Riley’s artistic journey when the artist began experimenting with stencil cuts. Hammering at £100,000 and realising £126,000 (fees included) against a high estimate of £70,000, this sale marks the work’s first auction appearance.


Christie’s London subsequently presented its online sale, Contemporary: Edition running from the 28th of February through the 14th of March. Riley’s ‘Carnival’ (2000), a similar style to the previously mentioned work reached £11,340 (fees included) against a £7000. Sotheby's London hosted its previous sale in March 2022 for £8190, 28% less than it reached this year.

These works are evidence of an upward trajectory in Riley’s art market and testimony to the continuous popularity and interest in her work and optical aesthetic.

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DAVID HOCKNEY

David Hockney's market came out on top in our 2023 Report, as the largest market after ‘King of Pop Art’ Warhol. His prints remain consistently profitable, making for spectacular auction results and an invitingly reliable investment. It was Hockney’s sausage dogs, in a drawing, Boodgie And Stanley, 30th May 1994, that stole the show, tripling their high pre-sale estimate and selling for a final price of £163,800 (including fees) at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Sale at the week’s opening.

While Hockney's dogs have been the subject of his artistic output for many years– featuring in popular works like his Stanley And Boodgie etchings, Horizontal Dogs and Vertical Dogs– this particular work on paper, executed in graphite, has not been seen at auction before. Acquired directly from Hockney by the seller, the final price of £163,800 (including fees), speaks both to Hockney’s dogs' valuable position in his market and to their sentimental nature. Hockney’s prints of his dogs have performed well historically, having seen the growth of their individual sale value of 196.7%, 203.8%, and 214.3% between 2017-2022, for Stanley And Boodgie, Horizontal Dogs, Dog Etching No.12, and Dog Etching No.6 respectively. And while we could have hoped that the Boodgie And Stanley, 30th May 1994 drawing would perform equally well, the extent to which it excelled speaks to the affectionate lure of Hockney’s dog drawings and prints.

Another David Hockney artwork appearing at auction for the first time was his iPad drawing, Yosemite II, October 16th 2011, 2011, from The Yosemite Suite. Also on offer with Christie’s, this time at their Post-war to Present sale in New York on the 10th March, the work exceeded its high estimate of $300,000 and sold for $378,000. Hockney’s most recent portfolios, such as The Yosemite Suite, but also The Arrival of Spring in 2011 have proved exceedingly popular, likely thanks to the works’ cheery colours and Hockney’s innovative use of the iPad as artistic medium. Similarly, 7th March 2021, More Flowers On A Table (2021), another of Hockney’s iPad drawn digital prints performed well, exceeding its high estimate of £35,000 to sell for £56,700 at Christie’s Contemporary Online Only sale on the 14th March.

Meanwhile, at Christie’s other New York sale this week – ‘New York: Featuring the Collection of Kenwal Steel in Support of GLAAD’, on the 8th– a 1973 Hockney lithograph titled Mist achieved its record sale price, selling for $44,100. From the artist’s Weather Series, the tranquil print depicts a Hollywood boulevard replete with palm trees, shrouded in mist. The print derives from the vast body of work that the British artist has produced, inspired by his move to California in 1961. The final record price was an impressive $26,100 more than its high pre-sale estimate of $18,000, and $19,460 more than its previous record sale price of $24640 (JPY 2,800,000), set in December 2021 at Mallet Japan, Tokyo.

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More Dreaming by Tracey Emin - MyArtBrokerImage © Christie's 2023 / More Dreaming © Tracey Emin 2016

TRACEY EMIN

As with previous Modern and Contemporary Auction weeks, it was Tracey Emin’s acrylic paintings that provided the most impressive results. The most spectacular of these, the sale of her 2016 original More Dreaming, sold for £226,800 (with fees), massively exceeding its pre-sale estimates at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Day Sale on 1st March.

Emin’s More Dreaming (2016) was appearing at auction for the very first time, with a high estimate of £80,000– a figure that was more than doubled by the hammer price of £180,000 (£226,800 with fees). The work echoes Emin’s prints of nude self-portraits, and particularly her series The Last Great Adventure Is You, produced in 2014 for a solo exhibition at White Cube.

Image © Sotheby's / Hot Hotter by Tracey Emin - MyArtBrokerImage © Sotheby's / Hot Hotter © Tracey Emin 2015

The appeal of these recent nude self-portraits remains undeniable, as other stand-outs from this Modern and Contemporary week included Hot Hotter (2015) and Sleeping (2016). Both vastly surpassed their high estimates at Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated Sale in New York: the former exceeded an $80,000 estimate, selling for $158,750 and the latter beat its estimate of $70,000 to sell for $158,750. Comparing the two works side by side unearths the nuanced appeal of both: while Hot Hotter expresses a burning sexuality in cadmium red, Sleeping is as serene as its title suggests.

All the nude self-portraits which impressed this week speak to Tracey Emin’s deftness at conveying varied subjective states, consolidating once again to her enduring relevance to the contemporary art world.

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Untitled Skull With Spine by Damien Hirst - MyArtBrokerImage © Phillips / Untitled Skull With Spine © Damien Hirst 2007

DAMIEN HIRST

Achieving prominence through the Young British Artists (YBA) movement of the 90s, today, thanks to Damien Hirst’s endless capacity to stir up the art world, Hirst’s Market, well-established within the broader Post-War & Contemporary category, remains sizeable. Stand-out offerings at auction this week came from both his original and editioned print oeuvres.

At Phillips’ 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale auction, on the 3rd March, Damien Hirst's original painting, Untitled Skull With Spine (2007), was put up for auction for the first time ever. The piece, which is executed in oil on canvas, was estimated to fetch a price between £120,000 to £180,000. However, the artwork surpassed expectations and was sold for an impressive £203,200. The image is a striking and rare example of Hirst’s figurative painting, and evidences the impact of Francis Bacon’s style on Hirst. The impressive price achieved is a testament to Hirst's talent and to his accession into the contemporary canon.

When it comes to Damien Hirst’s experimental series The Currency, produced in collaboration with HENI Editions, prices for the unique multiples have been erratic, resulting, this week, in one particularly impressive auction sale.

When Hirst conceived The Currency in 2016, buyers were given the option to purchase a work in either physical or digital form, leading many to speculate that the series’ conceptual aim was essentially a stocktake of the new crypto-based market, compared with the traditional art market. The mixed media artwork that was on offer at Christie’s online only Post-war and Contemporary sale sold for a sum of £27,720 on 9th March, exceeding its high-estimate (£12,000) by more than double, and more than quadrupling the last auction sale’s price. (A work from the series last sold for £5,500 in February of this year at Forum Auctions).

Hirst’s The Currency has sold at a similar pricepoint before, namely for £25,200 at Sotheby’s London in October 2022, testifying to the larger auction house’s capacity to generate higher prices.

An artist proof of Hirst's screenprint Exaudi Domine (2009) sold for a staggering £25,200 via Christie’s London Contemporary Editions online auction. The final price more than doubled the high-end estimate of £12,000, as well as the sale price of the last artist proof to go to auction: £11,250 (Sotheby’s London, September 2019). The screen print, which is from Hirst’s Psalms print series, is composed of a kaleidoscopic arrangement of butterfly wings, and adorned with diamond dust. Hirst’s butterfly wing motif lends the print significance, within Hirst’s oeuvre, as it features in many other print series such as Cathedrals.

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Image © Christie's / Screaming To The Sun by Yayoi Kusama - MyArtBrokerImage © Christie's / Screaming To The Sun © Yayoi Kusama 2013

YAYOI KUSAMA

Following her recent commercial collaboration with Louis Vuitton, Yayoi Kusama continues to excel at auction. At Christie's New York's Post-War To Present sale, Kusama's Screaming To The Sun (2013) exceeded its estimate of $600,000-$800,000, and realised an impressive $894,600 at its auction debut.

Unsurprisingly, works featuring Kusama's famed polka-dot motif also performed particularly well this week at auction. At Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary Day Auction, A Dream I Dreamed Yesterday (2006) realised £152,400 just surpassing its top estimate of £150,000. Likewise, her atmospheric enamel work Mountain Lake (1991) smashed its high estimate of £45,000 and fetched £76,200.

At Sotheby's Prints & Multiples sale in London, Three Pumpkins (1993) achieved a record price. The screen print was estimated to fetch between £26,000-£35,000, and realised an admirable £57,150. The work was last sold at SBI Art Auction in 2022 for a realised price of JPY 8,855,000 (around £55,290). The record-breaking sale of the print this week proves the popularity of Pumpkins in Kusama's oeuvre.

Across every single work offered at auction this week, realised prices exceeded their top presale estimates: a true testament to Kusama's command over the market and pop culture at large.

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Image © Christie's / Untitled 2011 by STIK - MyArtBrokerImage © Christie's / Untitled © STIK 2011

STIK

With a 909% growth in market size between 2017-2022, the ubiquitous street artist STIK continues to thrive at auction in 2023. At Christie's Post-War And Contemporary Art Day Sale, his acrylic on canvas Untitled (2011) smashed its presale estimate of £60,000-80,000 and realised £138,600. The original painting unites a family of his iconic six-line-two-dot figures, and the realised price is reflective of this unique composition.

Likewise, at Christie's First Open online auction the two STIK works presented far exceeded their presale estimates. His 2009 original work Angst more than doubled its high estimate of £30,000, realising £75,600. STIK's endearing Seated Figure (2009) realised £63,000 at its auction debut, also more than doubling the high presale estimate of £30,000. STIK's thriving auction results this week attest to his dominance in the Street & Urban genre, as well as the simple and naive appeal of his work.

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