Auction Watch June 2023: Marquee Sales
Sotheby's, Christie's, Bonhams & Phillips

A colourful oil on canvas work by Gustav Klimt depicting a lady with a fan, set against a tapestry of flowers and birds.Image © Sotheby's / Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) © Gustav Klimt 1917-18
Rebecca Marsham

Rebecca Marsham, Sales Director[email protected]

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The conclusion of June sales signals the end of the second quarter within the annual auction calendar, a period of great anticipation and interest for the art community and us as they serve as the final benchmark before the onset of the summer season. Notably, the next major sales event will not take place until September this year. Our recently published report, titled The American Pop Print Report, offers an extensive analysis of the top-selling blue-chip artists in Quarter 2, consistently demonstrating their robust performance, and these June sales will be the final contributor to the second quarterly sector.

On the whole, auction sales have experienced a decline, a sentiment echoed by industry experts. ArtTactic's research, which focuses on the auction houses Sotheby's, Christie's, and Phillips, reveals a notable -22% year-on-year decrease in London's prestigious evening auctions, with the overall figures augmented by significant sales of high-profile artworks.

Within our June auction report, we meticulously scrutinised the evening sales conducted by Christie's, Sotheby's, Phillips, and Bonhams. While a comparative analysis indicates a decrease in sales compared to the previous year, our deep exploration of the provenance of trophy sales has unearthed substantial returns on repeat sales, with many works hitting the market for the second or third time. Moreover, we have observed an upswing in the inclusion of artworks by lesser-known artists who have often remained under the radar, exemplified by the increased presence of Howard Hodgkins' works. Naturally, our attention is keenly focused on monitoring the performance of the street maverick Banksy, and we are also witnessing a growing popularity and market interest in an artist on our watch list: Thierry Noir.

With these insights in mind, below are the highlights from each individual sale:

Sotheby’s: The Now Evening Sale and Modern and Contemporary Evening Auction, 27 June

  1. Presale estimate: £162,105,000 - £211,895,000
  2. Sales total (hammer): £167,230,000
  3. Lots sold: 63/77
  4. Sell-through rate: 81%

In a traditional manner, Sotheby's kicked off the June marquee sales with The Now Sale, opening the main evening event and presenting the works of the most highly sought-after new and young artists. This particular sale yielded £7,020,000 (hammer price), contributing to the overall final sales value of £167,230,000. Notably, Sotheby's achieved a successful outcome, surpassing its presale low estimate by +3%.

The Modern and Contemporary Evening auction was highly anticipated in the offering of Gustav Klimt’s Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) (1917-1918), which unsurprisingly was the star lot of the overall sale realising £85,305,800 against a £65 million high estimate. The work was guaranteed but delightfully soared above its high estimate and marked a record as the most expensive artwork ever offered at an auction sale in Europe. The masterpiece was last sold in New York in 1994, almost a decade ago and fetched $11.7 million (USD). According to ArtNet, the work was sold to an anonymous buyer and remains the anonymous consignor of the work now. The anonymity of high-calibre works is common in the art world, especially given that this selling price is 9.2 times the previous sale, An astounding +826% difference in sales value over a ten-year period for the same artwork is a remarkable feat that reflects the evolving dynamics of the art market and the growing recognition of the artist's work. Klimt’s Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) is the artist's second highest-selling work next to his auction record of £91,909,821 (fees included) achieved in November 2022 at Christie’s Paul G. Allen sale.

LUCIAN FREUD

Two additional artworks offered in the seven-figure range exemplify the impact of long-term investments and the dynamics of the art market, showcasing impressive sales performance. Lucian Freud's Night Interior (1968-69) achieved a price of £9,586,700 (fees included), surpassing its high estimate of £12 million, securing a spot within the artist's top ten highest-selling works. Interestingly, a slightly larger unframed painting from 1969-1970 went unsold at Sotheby's New York in May 1992 at a high estimate of £348,600. It is uncertain whether this is the same artwork, suggesting that the individual who acquired it from Charles Saatchi in 1992 would have promptly consigned it for auction. The substantial difference between its selling price today and its estimates 31 years ago exemplifies the commanding power of the art market and the significant returns that can be generated over the long term.

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CY TWOMBLY

Similarly, an untitled work by American artist Cy Twombly achieved a price of £8,962,640 (fees included), falling within the estimated range of £8 million to £12 million. This artwork had previously sold at Christie's New York over 21 years ago in November 2001, realising £880,400 ($776,000 USD) at that time. The current selling price reflects a remarkable increase of ten times that amount, underscoring the significant appreciation in value over the years.

JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

With his phenomenal media presence, Basquiat was highly anticipated at this month's auctions. Among his offerings, Big Snow (1984) achieved a hammer price of £3,307,500. Although this work performed -5.5% below the pre-sale low estimate, notably, this was the second-time appearance of the artwork within the secondary market, first sold by Sotheby's in March 1994 for a hammer price of £29,000. The remarkable contrast between the initial amount and the recent sale, at 114 times the original price, once again underscores the immense impact that art, particularly Basquiat's works, carry as long-term investments. Another noteworthy sale from Basquiat was an untitled work on paper, realising £1,681,500 (fees included), squarely within its estimated range of £1.2 million to £1.8 million.

These two sales by Basquiat hold significance as his market has garnered excitement and attention throughout the first half of the 2023 auction calendar. Our recently published report, The American Pop Print Report includes a comprehensive section on Basquiat's paintings and print market, featuring a quarterly analysis. With these important sales and the anticipated market resurgence from Basquiat towards the end of the auction year, there is no doubt that they will undoubtedly impact his performance in the current Quarter 2.

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Christie’s: 20th/21st Century Evening Sale, 28 June

  1. Presale estimate: £56,720,000 - £83,340,000
  2. Sales total (hammer): £51,685,000
  3. Lots sold: 61
  4. Sell-through rate: 91%

After Sotheby's successful evening sale, Christie's proceeded with its auction of 20th/21st century works. Despite attaining a higher sell-through rate, the overall performance fell short of expectations, resulting in a total sales value of £51,685,000, which is 11% below the presale low estimate. Nonetheless, amidst these relatively lacklustre figures, the sale did feature a collection of highly sought-after artworks.

AMERICAN POP TAKES THE SPOTLIGHT: BASQUIAT & WARHOL

Generating significant anticipation and marketing buzz were the included works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, who has been basking in the spotlight for 2023. Among the offerings, Untitled (Pablo Picasso) (1984) emerged as the second-highest selling piece of the sale, achieving a price of £6,462,500 (fees included). This artwork had previously changed hands twice at Christie's, first realising £675,837 (fees included) in 2005 and £1,028,000 (fees included) in 2007. The current sale marks an impressive 9.56 times the 2005 amount and 6.28 times the 2007 amount. Notably, the consigner of this work had acquired it during the 2007 sale. The remarkable +528% difference in sales price between these values implies a potential return ranging from £3 million to £5 million, dependent on auction fees.

Following suit with Sotheby's offering, Christie's also presented an Untitled (1987) Basquiat work on paper, achieving a price of £1,250,000 (fees included). This sale marked a second-time auction appearance, and this work too, had been acquired by the consignor during the previous sale at Sotheby’s in December 2021 for £1,209,954 ($1,532,500 USD) (fees included). This sale showcases the appreciating value of not only Basquiat's paintings market but also his other mediums, works on paper and prints and multiples, which are highly regarded as collectables of exceptional quality.

Explore our comprehensive American Pop Print Report, where we delve deeper into the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of Basquiat's paintings and prints market. Download our report for free today.

No auction would be complete without the presence of the formidable Andy Warhol. Making its debut at auction, Warhol's Knives (1982) achieved a sale price of £2,097,000 (fees included), surpassing the high estimate by +4.85%.

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BANKSY

Meanwhile, the ever-notorious street art maverick Banksy continues to captivate our attention. Banksy's Dorothy I Don't Think... (2011) made its auction debut, realising an impressive £1,008,000 (fees included), exceeding the high estimate of £800,000 by +26%. This unique and rare piece served as the exhibition poster for Banksy vs. Bristol Museum in 2009. Although it is uncertain if this work was featured in the exhibition, we have come across a different medium of the artwork depicted in one of the exhibition photographs. Stealing some of the limelight from Basquiat, all eyes are currently on Banksy with his latest exhibition, CUT & RUN, taking place in Glasgow. With this surprise exhibition under wraps, we are speculating what Banksy has in store for the art world next.

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CONTEMPORARY MASTERS: DAVID HOCKNEY & YAYOI KUSAMA

Other impressive results came from Yayoi Kusama and David Hockney, two artists whose art market presence is unwavering thanks to their ceaseless contributions to Contemporary Art. Kusama’s INFINITY-NETS (OOAXT) (2008) achieved a remarkable sale price of £1,734,000 (fees included), surpassing its previous auction offering of £393,192 (¥3,870,000) (fees included) by 4.4 times. Hockney's Green Pool with Diving Board and Shadow (Paper Pool 3) (1978) set a new record, realising a price of £2,339,000 (fees included), surpassing the previous record achieved in November 2018 at Christie's for £2,536,144 ($2,892,500 USD) (fees included). These impressive results further underscore the enduring appeal and market value of Kusama's and Hockney's exceptional works.

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HOWARD HODGKIN

Lastly, this sale also featured a noteworthy performance by British painter and printmaker Howard Hodgkin. Christie's presented two of Hodgkin's works, which collectively achieved a sales value of £1,033,200 (fees included). Particularly intriguing was the inclusion of The Spectator (1984-1987), consigned by Michael Green, the founder of the now-defunct media conglomerate Carlton Communications and former chairman of ITV broadcasting company. According to ArtNet, Green originally acquired the artwork during a charity auction at Whitechapel Gallery for £172,000 (fees included). Despite falling below the low estimate of £743,400, this sale represents an impressive increase of +332% in sales value compared to the price paid by the consignor. Hodgkin's presence in the market has been notable this year, with the successful sales of six paintings. Additionally, strong performance in print sales further cements Hodgkin's position on our watch list.

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Bonhams: Post-War & Contemporary Art, 29 June

  1. Presale estimate: £2,686,500 - £3,979,500
  2. Sales total (hammer): £2,974,200
  3. Lots sold: 41
  4. Sell-through rate: 85%

Also commencing on 29th June, the Bonhams Post War & Contemporary Art sale took place at New Bond Street, generating great excitement among buyers and collectors who eagerly awaited Banksy's Congestion Charge (2004), consigned by the esteemed British fashion designer Sir Paul Smith. This artwork carries a distinguished provenance, having been acquired directly from Banksy's Santa's Ghetto in 2004, a renowned concept/exhibition store where Banksy unveiled many of his iconic works. Since then, it has remained in Smith's possession, adding to its allure. As part of Banksy's renowned Crude Oil's series, this remarkable piece achieved an impressive sale price of £1,681,900 (fees included), landing comfortably at the upper end of its estimated value range of £1.2 million to £1.8 million.



TOM WESSELMANN

The Bonhams sale also featured other noteworthy highlights, such as four rare works on paper by David Hockney, collectively realising a total sales value of £201,400 (fees included). These pieces performed admirably, meeting or exceeding their estimated values, highlighting the investment potential of Hockney’s prints and works on paper. Additionally, American pop artist Tom Wesselmann made a significant impact with a rare steel cut titled Monica Nude with Matisse (Black variation #3) (1987-1991), which achieved a price of £254,400 (fees included), surpassing its high estimate of £200,000. Notably, a similar variation, Variation #1, sold at Christie's in February 1996 for £15,530 ($24,000 USD), making this selling price over 16 times greater. This signed print, which we have exclusive access to at MyArtBroker, demonstrates its popularity in the secondary market.

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THIERRY NOIR

Lastly, Thierry Noir's works continue to garner attention as they increasingly appear in the market, solidifying his competitive presence. Bonhams offered three works by Noir, all achieving successful results either meeting or surpassing their estimates, with a combined total sales value of £32,640 (fees included). Particularly noteworthy was On se connait depuis le lycée. On a pas beaucoup changé (2012), which realised £21,760 (fees included), surpassing its high estimate of £7,000, indicating the growing demand for Noir's artworks.

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Phillips: 20th Century to Now, 30 June

  1. Presale estimate: £8,607,700 - £12,261,000
  2. Sales total (hammer): £7,148,618
  3. Lots sold: 93
  4. Sell-through rate: 83%

Concluding the exciting week of anticipated sales before the summer auction season, Phillips held its auction at Berkeley Square on the 30th of June. While falling below its presale estimate, Phillips still achieved a total sales value of just over £7 million, with 93 successful sales. Interestingly, 51% of the artworks performed above or within their estimated values, showcasing a diverse mix of younger and established artists.

Yayoi Kusama, the celebrated artist, had two works on offer at Phillips, collectively realising £217,170 (fees included). Nets 52 (1997) achieved a sale price of £177,800 (fees included), while Pacific Ocean (1980) sold for £39,370 (fees included).

Antony Gormley's unique sculpture titled MEME CCCXXII (2013) achieved a successful sale, surpassing its high estimate of £80,000 and realising £158,750. Gormley's cast iron sculptures consistently captivate buyers with their meticulous arrangements and conceptual significance. Gormley applies the same depth and complexity to his prints, which are gaining increasing attention in the secondary market.

DAMIEN HIRST

Hirst, known for his provocative art, also made an impact at the auction. Three of his works were offered, including Eshara (2019) selling for £406,400, Toddler's Cloud (2016) selling for £285,750, and Decahydronaphthalene (2019) selling for £222,250 (all fees included). Notably, Hirst announced on Instagram that the proceeds from these sales would be dedicated to The Damien Hirst Hospital, a construction project aimed at providing medical care to the community in Kyemihoko, Uganda.

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BRIDGET RILEY

Bridget Riley's hypnotic presence was felt with Untitled [towards 'Fleeting Moment'] (1986), a unique work on graph paper that achieved a sale price of £45,720 (fees included), surpassing its high estimate of £30,000. Two other versions of this unique study have previously sold at Christie's, with the most recent sale in July 2020 fetching £40,000 (fees included). This current sale marks a +14% increase from that amount, highlighting the resilience of Riley's market and the demand for her works on paper.

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Lastly, Thierry Noir continues to make notable appearances across various auction houses. His artwork My New Hairstyle Makes Me Feel More Comfortable (2020) achieved an impressive sale price of £40,640 (fees included), exceeding the high estimate of £15,000 by 2.7 times. As we've previously mentioned, Thierry Noir and his captivating, colourful ensemble of works remain on our watch list, which are palpably capturing the attention of art enthusiasts.

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