Collectors gathered at Christie's and Bonhams in New York this week for two sales in the prints and multiples category. Though these sales failed to drum up particularly dramatic results, several lots broke auction records. Unsurprisingly, American Pop aficionados outshone all other artists offered - proving their art historical and market preeminence.
Across sizeable sales at both Christie's and Bonhams this week, results were steady across established blue chip artist markets. Though results were far from dazzling at Bonhams, which had an overall sell-through rate of 55%, the like household names of the Modern & Contemporary art world performed as expected. One might contribute the low proportion of works - across both sales - unable to soar above their presale estimates to conservative valuations prior to the sale. Indeed, the two houses were certainly aware of the current climate within the market and likely adjusted their valuations in accordance. Despite this, American Pop Artists continued to excel across both sales while David Hockney performed expectedly well.
Here are the highlights from the two sales:
Sales Total Hammer: $6,892,800
Presale low estimate: $6,726,500
Presale high estimate: $9,921,000
+1% above low estimate
80% sell-through rate
Above: 19% (45)
Within: 40% (91)
Below: 20% (46)
Unsold: 19% (44)
Christie's Prints and Multiples sale, though less eventful and presenting fewer trophy works than at Phillips and Sotheby's, performed better by numbers. With a healthy 80% sell-through rate, the auction reached 1% above its low presale estimate - following a trend of auctions failing to soar above, although sitting comfortably within, their presale estimate. As has been the trend throughout 2023, certain blue chip masters captivated the sale - particularly the American Pop maestros.
Here are the highlights:
Twenty-one lots were offered from the rich and diverse portfolio of Andy Warhol throughout this sale, realising expectedly high results. The star lot of the sale was the Moonwalk Suite (F. & S. II.404-405) (1987), which soared far past its $250,000 - $350,000 presale estimate, realising a formidable $693,000. This result trumped the previous record set at Sotheby's by 9%, maintaining its position as one of Warhol's top 10 most investable prints for 2023 - as explored in our most recent report: The Market's Most Wanted.
Alongside this spectacular result, Warhol's celebrity-focused portfolio commanded several other record-breaking sales throughout the auction. A TP edition of Warhol's Buffalo Nickel (F. & S. II.374) (1986) set a new record at its third appearance on the secondary market, realising $277,200. Likewise Onion (F. & S. II.47) also set a new auction record, reaching above the $35,000 presale estimate to realise $56,700. As well as setting new records, every Warhol work offered at Christie's was sold - with most works reaching above their high estimates. Indeed, the sale was a testament to Warhol's enduring legacy in the art world and the resilient nature of his deeply established market.
Throughout this sale, the British powerhouse David Hockney set new records but largely fell short of spectacular results across the board. This fairly tame performance might be attributed to auction houses adjusting their pricing to reflect the current state of the market. Nonetheless, the growing demand trend we saw emerge in Q3 for Hockney's earlier printed works appears to be continuing into Q4. A complete portfolio of Illustrations For Six Fairytales From The Brothers Grimm (1969-70) almost doubled its $60,000 presale estimate by realising $119,700. This complete set is rare to the market, but has been trending throughout 2023. The previous record for this portfolio was set in February 2012 where a complete set sold at Christie's South Kensington for £55,250. This sale therefore marks a 1.8 increase in sales value, and speaks to the market's growing interest in Hockney's formative works.
Likewise, Hockney set another record for his A Hollywood Collection (1965) - another complete set of six lithographs in colour. The work hammered just above the low presale estimate at $32,000, realising $40,320. This sale marked the initial appearance of the complete set since 2016, and once again proves market demand for Hockney's rarer works from the early years of his printmaking career.
Unsurprisingly, Keith Haring commanded particular interest at Christie's with his lauded Pop Shop series. Though a complete set of Pop Shop prints was passed, two individual prints from the series achieved new auction record. Pop Shop IV: one print (1989) hammered 40% above the high estimate and realised $52,920, far-exceeding the past auction record of $32,500 (which was set at Phillips in April 2019). Likewise, Pop Shop IV: one print (1989) - depicting two figures holding up Haring's iconic Radiant Baby motif - also achieved a record price. Exceeding the high presale estimate of $30,000, the individual print realised $44,100 - proving once more the art historical and market value attached to this seminal body of work from Haring's portfolio.
While most of the lots offered by Roy Lichtenstein failed to reach above high presale estimates, all of his works sat within estimate. Art Critic (1996) realised 15% above the high estimate with $40,320. Performing particularly well was Lichtenstein's Reflections On Girl (1990) - from the celebrated Reflections series - which realised $239,400. This result was the second highest buyer-paid value, falling short of the auction record of $350,000 (with fees) set by the work in October 2021. Despite a markedly lower result at this Christie's sale, the positive performance of the work is proof in point of the popularity of the Reflections series in Lichtenstein's oeuvre.
Sales Total Hammer: $1,692,150
Presale low estimate: $2,612,600
Presale high estimate: $3,851,200
-36% above low estimate
55% sell-through rate
Above: 6% (20)
Within: 20% (62)
Below: 28% (89)
Unsold: 44% (136)
Bonhams Modern & Contemporary sale concluded the recent series of print auctions, following Sotheby’s, Phillips, and Christie’s print and multiples sales. Despite being billed as the grand finale, this event faced significant challenges. With a 55% sell-through rate, 89 lots fell short of estimates, and 136 remained unsold out of the 307 offered. While the prints and multiples market has thrived throughout the year, this particular sale failed to match the success seen earlier. It raises questions about the impact of presentation dynamics, indicating that the initial sales might set the tone. Notably, some prints did break records, predominantly from the artists who have dominated the market in 2023 – the blue chip male artists.
Here are the highlights:
Bonhams typically follows a chronological order in their sales, with Contemporary works featured towards the end. Keith Haring made a strong start with his artwork, Andy Mouse 1 (1986), earning recognition on multiple fronts. This artwork stood out as the star lot, achieving $254,500 (with fees) and perfectly aligning within estimates. Remarkably scarce in the market, it appeared for the second time in 2023 after its last sighting in 2016. Featuring Haring’s friend Andy Warhol portrayed as a Mickey Mouse caricature, this artwork offers collectors a chance to own a piece from two iconic American pop artists. Bonhams' sale set a new auction record for this print, ranking it as the third top-selling work in Haring’s 2023 collection.
Also performing as expected was Haring’s Pop Shop IV, Plate IV (1989), depicting two of his iconic dogs barking at each other. This piece sold for $40,960 (with fees). While it secured the second-highest price for this print, it had also been featured in a prior Christie’s sale, setting a record at $52,920 (with fees). Overall, ten works by Haring were up for sale, and five of them found buyers.
Roy Lichtenstein's presence was notable in this sale, showcasing 12 works spanning various phases of his career. Among them, Titled (1996) performed impressively, fetching $21,760 (with fees), slightly above its high estimate of $20,000. Temple (1964) achieved $14,080 (with fees), just below its auction record of £16,380 set at Sotheby's in March 2022. Art Critic (1996) sold for $11,520 (with fees), a remarkably low price considering its usual market value ranging from $30,000 to $40,000. However, Reflections On Crash (1990) emerged as a standout, realising $203,700 (with fees), surpassing the high estimate by 35% and breaking the previous auction record set at Phillips in April 2022 for $201,600 (with fees).
A selection of Andy Warhol's works always adds to the completeness of any sale. A noticeable trend has emerged in Q3, and is trailing into Q4, of heightened demand for his Cowboys And Indians series. One of the rare prints from this series, General Custer (F. & S. II.379) (HC) (1986), made a comeback, fetching $70,350 (with fees). This print, absent from the market since 2019, approached its previous auction record of $81,250 (with fees) set at Sotheby's in October 2013 for a TP, falling just 15% short. Additionally, Hans Christian Andersen (F. & S. IIB.399) (1987), an exceptionally rare print, achieved a new auction record of $12,160 (with fees). Its previous, and only, appearance was in October 2022 at the Swedish auction house Bukowski’s, where it sold for £4,476 (with fees), marking a remarkable 2.24-fold increase in sales value.
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