American Pop Artists Set Records at Sotheby’s & Christie’s
Auction Watch September 2023

A screenprint by Andy Warhol depicting the portrait of Marilyn Monroe in teal, yellow and red against a light pink backgroundMarilyn (F. & S. II.28) © Andy Warhol 1967
Rebecca Marsham

Rebecca Marsham, Sales Director[email protected]

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This week in London, sales concluded in the prints and multiples category at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Both auctions offered a range of works by leading blue chip artists, with a vast assortment of prints by leading American Pop artists. A flurry of record-breaking results across both sales signalled the enduring popularity of Pop icons, with a particularly formidable performance by Andy Warhol.

Both in person and online sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s saw record prices achieved across several era-defining artists. The star lots at the prints and multiples sales across both auction houses were from Warhol’s portfolio, showing the King of Pop’s ceaseless market preeminence. Also performing particularly well across these sales were Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hockney, and Damien Hirst - who all achieved record breaking results.

Though Christie’s Contemporary Edition was underscored by a high unsold rate of 24.03%, the sales profferring works by the deeply established markets of Warhol, Haring and Lichtenstein showed considerably higher sell-through rates. The results from September are thus indicative of where appetite lies at the end of Q3, with intense demand for artists with mature markets that have historically withstood economic uncertainty and market volatility.

Here are the highlights from the sales:

Christie’s Prints and Multiples 13-28 September (Online)

  1. Presale Estimate: £2,891,100 - £4,338,900
  2. Sales total (hammer): £3,425,600, +18% low estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 86.39%
  4. Total lots sold: 146/169
    1. Above: 31% (53 lots)
    2. Within: 30% (51 lots)
    3. Below: 24% (42 lots)
    4. Unsold: 13% (23)

Christie's Prints and Multiples sale boasted a healthy 86.39% sell-through rate, with over half of the lots comfortably sitting within or exceeding estimates. Just 13% of works were unsold, and the sales total (hammer) of £3,425,600 was 18% above the low presale estimate. This particularly successful sale was driven by a myriad of covetable lots from the Warhol and Hockney markets.

The star lot of the auction was an Artist's Proof (AP) edition of Warhol's Moonwalk suite. The set soared past its presale estimate of £250,000-£300,000, realising a phenomenal £441,000. As we observed in our recent American Pop Print Report, demand for special editioned proof prints by Warhol is at an all-time high - made all the more obvious by this impressive sale.

A screenprint by Andy Warhol depicting Superman reaching out to the viewer. The figure's arm extends to the top right of the composition towards the name “SUPERMAN”, which is cut off at the top of the work, set against a yellow background.Superman © Andy Warhol 1981

Sotheby’s Prints & Multiples 19-26 September (Live)

  1. Presale Estimate: £2,943,100 - £4,390,000
  2. Sales total (hammer): £3,096,000, +5% low estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 80%
  4. Total lots sold: 117/145
    1. Above: 33% (48)
    2. Within: 34% (50)
    3. Below: 13% (19)
    4. Unsold: 19% (28)

Sotheby's Prints & Multiples also experienced a healthy sell-through rate of 80%, with the sales total (hammer) reaching 5% above the presale low estimate. Once again, collectors were particularly drawn to works by Warhol and his allies in Pop: Keith Haring and Basquiat.

Likewise, the star lot of the show was a trial proof (TP) of Warhol's Superman from the Myths series. Sitting comfortably within its £220,000-£350,000 presale estimate, the work realised £317,500: a new auction record for the work. Like the star lot at Christie's Prints and Multiples, this work is another special editioned proof print - attesting to the desirability of these unique works within the Warhol market.

Christie’s Contemporary Edition 12-28 September (Online)

  1. Presale estimate: £1,597,100 - £2,425,800
  2. Sales total (hammer): £1,411,956, -31% low estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 75.97%
  4. Total lots sold: 117/154
    1. Above: 14% (22)
    2. Within: 29% (45)
    3. Below: 32% (50)
    4. Unsold: 24% (37)

The results at Christie's Contemporary Edition were not as favourable as the other prints and multiples auctions which concluded this week. With a particularly low sell-through rate of 75.97%, many lots in this sale were either unsold or failed to reach their low presale estimate. A sizeable 32% of lots (50/154 total lots) sold below their presale estimate, while just 14% (22/154) reached above estimate. Clearly, a greater degree of caution was present among collectors and investors at this particular sale.

In spite of this, several works broke auction records. The much anticipated sale of Banksy's Choose Your Weapon (dark blue) - an artist proof (AP) - became the star lot of the sale during its second auction appearance. While the work hammered at its low estimate of £100,000, the work realised £126,000 and is emblematic of the consistent demand and value of the Choose Your Weapon series.

Here are the top performing artists and their lots across these three sales:

ANDY WARHOL

Andy Warhol was undeniably the star of September auctions, frequently breaking records and commanding high prices for his notable series. At Christie's Prints and Multiples, two works from the Marilyn Monroe portfolio were offered and both climbed past high presale estimates. Marilyn (F. & S. II.28), estimated to fetch between £100,000-£150,000, realised an astonishing £201,600. Likewise, Marilyn (F. & S. II.26) achieved a new auction record, almost doubling its high presale estimate of £70,000 to realised £138,600.

Also performing well at Christie's Prints and Multiples were an array of works from the Myths series, which all either sat within presale estimates or exceeded them. Appetite for individual works from Warhol's print portfolios was similarly strong at Sotheby's Prints & Multiples. Here, three works from the Saint Apollonia series set new auction records and another matched a previous record. Likewise, Annie Oakley from the Cowboys And Indians series made a new auction record at Sotheby's, realising £53,340. As we have seen in auctions throughout the year, complete sets outside of Warhol's most iconic series have witnessed growing demand throughout 2023 - something these results are testament to.

Also at Christie's Prints and Multiples, a new record was set for the red colourway of Warhol's Queen Elizabeth II (Royal Edition). The work hammered at its high estimate of £300,000 and realised £378,000, demonstrating the growing demand for Warhol's portraits of the late queen after her death in 2022.

Browse Andy Warhol prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about Warhol print market growth in the American Pop Print Report.

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JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

At Sotheby's Prints & Multiples, three out of the four Jean-Michel Basquiat works offered set new auction records. All for the the prints were created and stamped by the artist's estate after his untimely death, and give collectors the opportunity to own works from his dramatic oeuvre. The prints Charles The First, Rome Pays Off and Jawbone Of An Ass all hammered within their sizeable presale estimated and set new records. While Cabeza did not achieve a new record, it reached above high estimate to realise £82,550.

Browse Jean-Michel Basquiat prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about Basquiat print market growth in the American Pop Print Report.

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KEITH HARING

All of the Keith Haring prints offered at both Christie's and Sotheby's comfortably reached their presale estimates, with many works exceeding the high estimate. At Christie's Prints and Multiples, Haring's Growing hammered comfortably within the presale estimate of £40,000-£60,000 and realised £63,000. Likewise at Sotheby's Prints & Multiples, all of Haring's works performed admirably. A new auction record was set for Pop Shop Quad II, which reached about the £50,000 high presale estimate and acheived £57,150.

Browse Keith Haring prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about Haring print market growth in the American Pop Print Report.

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ROY LICHTENSTEIN

Though one of Roy Lichtenstein's works was passed at Christie's Prints and Multiples, his three other works generally performed well. The printer's proof (PP) Imperfect 63⅜" x 88⅞" failed to reach low estimate, but Lichtenstein's Les Nymphéas and Two Paintings: Sleeping Muse both hammered comfortably within estimate - realising £50,400 and £30,240, respectively.

Browse Roy Lichtenstein prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about Lichtenstein print market growth in the American Pop Print Report.

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DAVID HOCKNEY

After this white glove solo sale at Phillips earlier this month, David Hockney continues to dazzle. Three of Hockney's works set new auction records at Christie's Prints and Multiples, with certain works far exceeding presale estimates. Hockney's Rain, for example, was modestly estimated to fetch between £25,000-£35,000. The work realised an incredible £107,100, indicating not only strong demand for Hockney's Weather series, but also the sheer allure of his signature mark-making and iconography when it comes to depicting water.

Browse David Hockney prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about Hockney print market growth in the Modern British Prints Report.

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DAMIEN HIRST

Across Sotheby's and Christie's, Damien Hirst was particularly successful this September. Notably, an entire set of Hirst's H9 The Virtues appeared at Sotheby's Prints & Multiples, where the set hammered at the £80,000 high estimate and realised a respectable £101,600. This print series has seen particular demand throughout the year, as shown by our algorithm, and continues to drive growth in the Hirst market. Every single one of Hirst's works offered at this sale at least reached their low presale estimate. Likewise, five of his prints achieved new record prices at Christie's Contemporary Editions, proving that the King of Controversy remains in high market demand as we enter Q4.

Browse Damien Hirst prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about Hirst print market growth in the Ultimate Print Market Report.

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BRIDGET RILEY

Modern British master Bridget Riley also performed well at this month's auctions. At Christie's Contemporary Edition, a new record was set for Large Fragment. This PP print was estimated between £8,000-£12,000, and surpassed the high estimate to realise £20,160. Likewise, four Riley prints (three of which were from her Nineteen Greys series) all sold within estimate with fees included.

Browse Bridget Riley prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about Riley print market growth in the Modern British Prints Report.

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