Auction Watch June 2023: Prints & Editions
Phillips & Bonhams

A Pop Art print by Andy Warhol depicting and advert image of a Chanel No. 5 bottle in purple and pink.Chanel (F. & S. II.354) © Andy Warhol 1985
Rebecca Marsham

Rebecca Marsham, Sales Director[email protected]

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The market for Prints & Editions has shown itself to be lucrative and robust at June 2023 auctions. Collectors flocked to Phillips and Bonhams this week to place their bids on a myriad of works ranging across American Pop, Modern British, and Modern & Contemporary works. The two sales witnessed particularly strong demand for unique editioned proof prints, and certain blue chip masters continued to bolster their solid position in the market.

Indeed, as we recorded after Phillips’ Evening & Day Editions on 7 and 8 June, the auction model itself is culpable for inhibiting fair market value for editioned works and restricting their ability to rise above estimates. However, healthy results across Phillips and Bonhams prove that demand is high for editioned works in 2023 as collectors covet the top-performing collectable asset.

Across both sales at Phillips New York and Bonhams London, American Pop Artists triumphed with Tom Wesslemann and Andy Warhol works emerging as the star-lots of the sales, respectively. The three works offered by Wesselmann at the Phillips sale fetched an impressive $302,260 total sales value, propelled by the phenomenal sale of his Country Bouquet. Likewise, the 11 Warhol works sold at Bonhams reached a combined total sales value of £594,160. Also performing well across the two auctions were David Hockney, Roy Licchtenstein and Damien Hirst who, despite rarely soaring above high estimates, realised comfortable results.

In this Auction Watch, we break down the total lots sold by works which sold above, within, and below their presale estimates. We also indicate the percentage of lots unsold in each auction. Despite strong sell-through rates - particularly at Phillips - these statistics reveal a lower percentile of works selling above their high estimates. Representing a fraction of market opportunity, these auctions are testament to the insufficiency of the auction model for editioned works: a comparables market. One thing however is certain: Prints & Editions offer far greater opportunities than originals and uniques - particularly with the access, control and transparency afforded by private sale.

Phillips New York: Editions and Works on Paper 21 June

  1. Presale estimate: $708,600 - $1,077,400
  2. Sales total (hammer): $1,183,160, +66% low presale estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 92%
  4. Total lots sold: 122/131
    1. Above: 47% (62)
    2. Within: 30% (39)
    3. Below: 15% (20)
    4. Unsold: 8% (10)

At Phillips New York, 122 of the 131 offered lots were sold with a particularly high sell-through rate of 92%. While the sales total climbed 66% above the low estimate of $708,600, the high sales total was owed to the sale of select star lots which garnered intense attention from bidders. In reality, less than half of the lots sold achieved above their high presale estimate, showing auctions to be rather unsuitable for this segment of the market in comparison with private sales.

Here are the highlights from the auction:

TOM WESSELMANN

The star of the sale was Wesselmann, who, in the three lots sold at Phillips achieved a total sales turnover of $302,260. This sizeable figure was largely due to the stellar performance of his Country Bouquet. The metal work, playfully representing an organic bunch of flowers, achieved 3.25 times the high estimate of $90,000 - realising an astonishing $292,100. This sale marked a record price for Country Bouquet, which previously realised £120,199 ($156,250) at Sotheby’s New York in March 2020.

This record-breaking sale is a testament to high market demand for Wesselmann’s genre-defying approaches to the canon. The material nature of this work, a cut out steel relief with coloured enamel, is a novel approach to an ‘editioned’ work of art. Not dissimilar to a sketch made by the artist, laser-cut metal works like this prove that Wesselmann is an artist who demands attention beyond his contributions to the Pop Art movement.

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

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ALEX KATZ

Katz, another artist closely associated with American Pop, also performed admirably at Phillips. Typical of his flat approach to figurative subject matter, Katz's Blue Umbrella 2 unsurprisingly emerged as the third-highest sale of the auction. The work surpassed it $50,000 high presale estimate and realised an impressive $72,390. At its first appearance at a western auction house, the work achieved a record price - demonstrative of high demand for Katz's distinct portraits. Popularity of the work was perhaps driven by Katz's auction record, which the artist achieved at Phillips London in October 2019 with Blue Umbrella I, an oil on canvas painting depicting the same subject.

Likewise, Katz's Late Summer Flowers also far-surpassed its high presale estimate of $15,000, realising $36,830. Again, this was a record price for this particular work. Late Summer Flowers was last offered at Phillips New York in October 2020, where it realise £11,486 ($15,120). Achieving 2.43 times that amount in last week's sale, it is clear that market demand is high for Katz's inimitable works.

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ROY LICHTENSTEIN

Continuing the immense popularity for the masters of American Pop, Lichtenstein also achieved record prices at this sale. From Lichtenstein's innovative Brushstrokes collection, Brushstrokes C. 45 far exceeded its presale estimate of $10,000-$15,000. Realising 3.38 times the high estimate, the work achieved a formidable $50,800 - a record price for this signature Lichtenstein work. The previous record was set for the print was set in April 2023, when it was sold at Christie's New York for £32,378 ($40,320).

Also performing well from Lichtenstein's portfolio was his Morton A. Mort, From Expressionist Woodcut Series. Much like his Brushstrokes collection, this work speaks to Lichtenstein's pioneering approach to visual representation: beyond the Ben-Day comic book appropriations he is best known for. The woodcut exceeded its high estimate, realising $16,510. These impressive sales are demonstrative of the enduring popularity of Lichtenstein's boundary-pushing works, attracting intense attention at auction for their crucial position in the history of art and culture itself.

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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BANKSY

Though only one work by Bristol bad-boy Banksy was sold at the auction, it surpassed its high presale estimate of $40,000. Realising $44,450, No Ball Games (grey), this quintessential work in Banksy's oeuvre emerged at the fifth-highest sale of the auction. Perhaps thanks to the current media buzz surrounding the anonymous street artist's CUT & RUN exhibition in Glasgow, the work performed particularly well despite the corrections facing Banksy's market since its dramatic boom in 2020 and 2021.

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

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Bonhams London: Prints and Multiples 27 June

  1. Presale estimate: £1,227,300 - £1,769,300
  2. Sales total (hammer): £1,253,400, +2% low presale estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 78%
  4. Total lots sold: 75/95
    1. Above: 24% (23)
    2. Within: 42% (40)
    3. Below: 12% (12)
    4. Unsold: 21% (20)

At Bonhams London, the sales total (hammer) only reach 2% above the low presale estimate. Despite a tolerable sell-through rate of 78%, 20 of the 95 lots were unsold at this sale, and only 24% of works reached above their presale estimates. However, appetite was certainly still present for masters of blue chip art, with collectors particularly interested in unique works.

ANDY WARHOL

As we recently uncovered in our American Pop Print Report, Warhol's special editioned proof prints have witnessed a surge in market attention. The King of Pop's proofs - including AP, TP, PP, EP and HC prints - have garnered particular popularity as distinct works of art. In this sale, two APs from Warhol's iconic Mick Jagger portfolio performed exceptionally well. Warhol's Mick Jagger (F. & S. 11.143) A.P. 37/50 exceeded it's £80,000 and realised an impressive £108,350 - becoming the second highest lot of the sale, 1.27 times higher than the high estimate. Likewise Mick Jagger (F. & S. II.145) 1st Artist Proof also surpassed its high estimate of £60,000 and realised £89,300. This particular colour variation is rate to the market, and this sale marks the fourth highest selling price for this variation. These two sales are testament to both the covetable nature of this series for its championing of the cult of celebrity, focusing on the sex appeal of the Rolling Stones frontman, and also the current attention for Warhol's unique editioned works on the market.

Also demonstrating this trend was a plate for Warhol's poignant Ladies And Gentlemen series: Ladies And Gentlemen (F & S II.129) A. P. 20/25. The work also exceeded its high £12,000 presale estimate and realised £14,080: a record price for the work at auction. The work is part of one of Warhol's most politically-engaged series, and speaks to the enduring relevance of his work in the current socio-political climate - commanding great attention among the market.

The highest selling lot of the sale was - unsurprisingly - Warhol's Chanel (F. & S. II.354), from the Ads series. Achieving 1.38 times the high presale estimate, the ode to Chanel's infamous perfume realised £165,500, the fifth highest price for this particular print. Like Warhol's entire oeuvre - and particularly the Ads series - Chanel captures the very ethos of Pop Art itself: reimagining the popular sightings of everyday commercial culture and reimagining it as high art. The work attests to the abiding nature of Warhol's subject matter, remaining relevant to collectors of today and continuously bolstering Warhol's position as the leading light of American Pop.

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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DAVID HOCKNEY

At the Bonhams sale, 16 works by Modern British Master Hockney were offered, realising a total sales value of £350,064. Naturally, Hockney's ceaselessly popular swimming pools commanded particular attention at the sale, with bidding for his Pool Made With Paper And Blue Ink For Book cultivating particular attention from bidders. The work hammered at £29,000, and then saw a bidder return in the last minute at £30,000 - finally realising £39,680.

Likewise, Water Pouring Into Swimming Pool also proved the art historical value of Hockney's pools. Performing 4.2 times higher than the high presale estimate, the lithograph realised £29,440 and achieved a record price for the print.

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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