The Week in Prints 24th - 30th June 2024

Erin-Atlanta Argun
written by Erin-Atlanta Argun,
Date of publication29 Jun 2024
Last updated16 Jul 2024
News From the Prints & Editions Market and Art World
A silkscreen depicting an unfolded Campbell's Soup box in red and white with yellow accents and teal text.Image © Phillips / Campbell's Soup © Andy Warhol 1986
Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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Commissioning Editor Erin-Atlanta Argun delves into a week of mixed results in the art world, examining the tepid performance of London’s summer auctions, the impressive impact of Christie's sale of Vivienne Westwood's personal collection, and other notable market movements. As private sales take the lead, the shifting landscape reveals a buyer's market that is evolving beyond traditional auction dynamics, offering unique insights into current collector behaviour and market trends.

The art market continues to navigate through a landscape of hesitancy stradled with opportunity, with private sales proving to be a cornerstone in today's market dynamic. The tepid results at June's marquee sales in London this week have highlighted a cautious atmosphere among bidders. Simultaneously, the power of more theatrical, strong provenance auctions, exemplified by the successful sale of Dame Vivienne Westwood's personal collection, underscores the evolving interests of collectors. This week, we explore these trends alongside notable developments, including a fresh collaboration between the Basquiat Estate and H&M, the conclusion of a discreet Kusama sale at Sotheby’s Sealed, and a major Hockney print exhibition in Shanghai. These stories collectively paint a vivid picture of an art market in flux, yet rich with opportunity for discerning buyers.

1.

London Summer Auctions Yield Tepid Results Across the Major Houses

Across the major houses this week, London welcomed bidders with a flurry of Modern & Contemporary sales. Despite offering promising lots, with relatively conservative presale estimates, the overall picture at the end of the week is one which speaks to an atmosphere of hesitancy in the current market. Sales across Sotheby's, Phillips, Bonhams, and Christie's - who cancelled their main June marquee sale - failed to meet low estimates, as lots struggled to meet and surpass their high estimates.

The week of marquee sales kicked off with Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary Evening Auction, including the Ralph I. Goldenberg Collection on Tuesday 25th June. Chairman of Sotheby's Europe, Oliver Barker, welcomed a comfortably bustling floor: “As per tradition, summer is the season where the art world - and Taylor Swift fans - converge in London.” Even with lower estimates and reduced fees, however, marquee sales across the board were unable to shake off the market jitters holding bidders back. Take Jean-Michel Basquiat's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict as case in point. Two years ago, the work was estimated at $30 million at Christie's New York (before being pulled just before the sale). Prior to this year's marquee sale at Sotheby's, the work was given a more humble estimate of £15 - £20 million, and hammered at the low estimate after less than a minute of bidding. For opportunist bidders, this period in the market is a chance to secure better deals than the over-saturated pandemic-era market. Though the overall sale fell 7% below the low estimate, Sotheby's still sported a healthy 90% sell-through rate at their evening auction (versus 68% at the day auction).

Meanwhile, Phillips Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale on Thursday 27th June fell 15% below the low overall presale estimate, with an underwhelming 69% sell-through rate. Though multiple lots were pulled, passed, or fell below estimate, certain works captured bidders' attention with notable success from Caroline Walker, Ayako Rokkaku, and Andy Warhol's unique iteration of a Campbell's Soup box - which hammered £20,000 above the high estimate at £670,000. Though few records were broken and high estimates were not smashed as they might have been in recent years, demand certainly remains for the blue chip icons and rising stars.

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2.

Christie's Sell The Personal Collection of Dame Vivienne Westwood

Outside of the arena of fine art marquee sales, Christie's hosted Vivienne Westwood: The Personal Collection across a white glove evening sale and online sale of other garments and accessories from the personal wardrobe of the late fashion designer and cultural icon. Prior to the sales this week, the lots were exhibited at Christie's in London in an un-ticketed event which was totally free to the public. Lots from the auction itself were offered by the Estate of Vivienne Westwood, who are to donate 100% of the total hammer proceeds (after auction expenses) equally between The Vivienne Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Amnesty International.

Throughout her life and illustrious career, Dame Vivienne Westwood transformed British fashion with a punkish, often gender-bending, and always theatrical edge. Across the evening and online sales, her signature corsetted silhouettes with draped tartans, taffetas, and silks marked some of the designer's most memorable personal looks. Even the auctioneers of the evening sale came dressed for the occasion, dubbing Westwood pins and other fashionable homages to her iconic style. Yet another white glove celebrity sale, the sale proves the power of provenance at auction, and marks the endurance of Westwood's contributions to British fashion.

3.

The Jean-Michel Basquiat Estate and H&M have Teamed Up with Ev Bravado and Téla d'Amore in Paris for a Bespoke Collaboration

The sheer amount American Pop Art merchandise circulating our high streets apparently knows no end, as H&M announce a collaboration with the Jean-Michel Basquiat Estate. The fashion retailer celebrated the launch of their collaboration with Ev Bravado and Téla d'Amore in Paris this week, with a star-studded cocktail party. Attendees flaunted pieces from the new collection which “explores Basquiat's legacy and his impact on young Black creatives.” Amongst the core pieces of the collection, which are to be launched in selected stores worldwide on 18 July, several one-off, customs pieces were made to be donated to the Basquiat Estate. Given Basquiat's own penchant for fashion throughout his career, the collection of streetwear from an accessible brand like H&M seems like a fitting homage to Basquiat's legacy.

4.

Sotheby's Sealed Sell Yayoi Kusama Sculpture to an Anonymous Bidder, with no Buyer's Premium

The sale of Yayoi Kusama's Phantom Polka Dots of Fate, Ordained by Heaven, Were the Greatest Gift Ever for Me concluded online via Sotheby's Sealed on 27th June 2024. Due to the nature of the auction house's Sealed platform, which treats bids for luxury goods and services with the utmost discretion, Sotheby's did not announce the winning bid for the Kusama sculpture. Perhaps of more interest given the current climate of the auction world (and Sotheby's recent fee structure change) is that absolutely no buyer's premium. Through a proprietary ranking system, bidders cannot see other bids as they come in, but have the opportunity to see where their bid fell after the sale has closed. The winning bid is kept totally confidential, merging the practices of the traditional auction house with that of bespoke private sales venues. Indeed, as the first Sealed auction to feature a work of fine art, it will be intriguing to see what art offering Sotheby's sealed offer in the future.

5.

Actor-Podcaster Russel Tovey Opens Co-Curated David Hockney Exhibition at Shanghai's Modern Art Museum

At Shaghai's Modern Art Museum, an exhibition dedicated to David Hockney's prints and works on paper has just opened. David Hockney: Paper Trails is the largest ever exhibition dedicated to Hockney's works on paper, and the 110 works on display pronounce Hockney's ceaseless innovation of the print medium. The show has been co-curated by Russel Tovey, the actor and host of the much-celebrated Talk Art podcast, and MAM's Artistic Director Shai Baitel. Taking a suitable setting in Shanghai, Baitel expressed that “printmaking started here and was mastered here, and Mr. Hockney was [is] a master of works on paper.” From etchings of his beloved dachshunds Boodgie and Stanley, to his contemporary iPad print series like The Arrival of Spring, the exhibition unites prints and works on paper that trace a line through Hockney's life and career.

As for Tovey's involvement, the actor-podcaster has professed in interviews surrounding the show that he is no “academic,” and approaches art through “passion and love” above all else. Of particular interest to Tovey was the intimate friendship between Hockney and one of his favourite sitters and closest confidents, textile designer Celia Birtwell. For Tovey, the part of the exhibition dedicated to Hockney's renderings of Celia is “a love letter to their connection, their friendship” - tracing the connection between the two from mere acquaintances to lifelong friends. The exhibition pays homage to China's printmaking tradition and Hockney's mastery of the medium in equal measure, and shines a light on the opportunity the nuanced world of print has to offer.

The exhibition runs until 10th September 2024, and an online gallery of works exhibited can be seen here.

Stay tuned for more insights and updates from the prints and editions market next week.

Joe Syer

Joe Syer, Co-Founder & Specialist[email protected]

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