Auction Watch October 2023: London Marquee Sales
Sotheby's, Christie's & Phillips

A square canvas with tied wooden supports, containing sketches and inscriptions by Jean-Michel Basquiat in various colours on a multicolour background.Future Sciences Versus The Man © Jean-Michel Basquiat
Louis Denizet

Louis Denizet, Specialist[email protected]

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October in the art market this year was marked by Frieze's return to London for its 20th anniversary. As Frieze set up in Regent's Park, London, auction houses synchronised their premier sales, beginning with Sotheby's Evening sale and Phillips Day sale on Thursday, October 12th, concluding with Christie's day sale on Saturday, October 14th.

The atmosphere was notably cautious, perhaps even more so than observed during the May Q2 sales. Figures across art sales and auction houses remain lower in comparison to the same October marquee sales in 2022. However, a compelling trend has emerged, especially this week. Buyers are gravitating towards blue chip artists and established markets. Both Frieze booths and auction houses showcased a significant selection of works by renowned artists, which typically would have included more emerging talents. This shift in demand was substantiated by the sales, with top performers being Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Banksy, and others.

Also coinciding with Frieze Week, MyArtBroker released our third comprehensive market report of the year, The Print Report: The Market's Most Wanted in 2023, on Thursday, October 12th. This report, highlighting evident trends in auction sales, and also our latest development, MAB100:The Print Index, is available for free download.

Below are the auction highlights:

SOTHEBY'S

Sotheby's Contemporary Evening Auction - 12/10 (Live)

  1. Presale estimate: £44,350,000 - £64,550,000
  2. Sales Total Hammer: £24,430,1000, -45% below low estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 73%
    1. Above: 7% (2)
    2. Within: 30% (8)
    3. Below: 34% (9)
    4. Unsold: 26% (7)

In the traditional format, Sotheby's commenced its sale with The Now Evening Auction, featuring George Condo's Multicoloured Female Composition as the highest valued lot with an estimate of £2m - £3m, eventually selling for £2,993,000 (with fees) and was the star lot among 22 offered. This opening sale demonstrated a 90% sell-through rate, and saw four seven-figure sales, contributing to the combined total of £36,965,100 (hammer) including The Now and Sotheby's Contemporary Evening Sale. Sotheby's Contempory Evening sale alone fell -45% below the presale estimate with a less impressive 73% sell-through rate. Five auction records were set across both sales.

Here are the highlights:

Five lots were withdrawn presale, four with seven-figure estimates, impacting the results of the sale. The highest valued lot, Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild (1986) was expected to reach £24 million and passed. However, this shortfall recalls industry experts noting a cautious market early on the the year, and can be attributed to consignors being unwilling to adjust their prices, suggesting that the low estimate of £16 million was too high for current market standards.

Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, and Yayoi Kusama

However, blue chip branded names of the American Pop and Contemporary market showed resilience, contrasting with the challenges faced by other lots. The standout lot of the evening auction was Francis Bacon's Study For a Portrait, (1979), setting an auction record at £4,283,000 million (with fees). Andy Warhol's Diamond Dust Shoes (1980) debuting at auction, garnered attention, showcasing a hot pink colour hue. In 2015, a purple version of these canvases fetched £2.3 million (with fees) at Phillips, establishing a record price that remained unchallenged until this recent sale. This work realised £3,315,000 (with fees), marking a 1.2 times increase in value.

Yayoi Kusama's bronze sculpture Pumpkin (S), (2014), also achieved a healthy sale, realising £3,073,000 (with fees) as edition 1, outperforming the previous appearance of edition 8 at Sotheby's Hong Kong sale in December 2022 by 8%.

Browse American Pop and Contemporary prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about the most in demand artist in The Print Report: The Most Wanted in 2023.

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Sotheby's Contemporary Day Auction - 13/10 (Live)

  1. Presale estimate: £11,288,500 - £16,090,500
  2. Sales Total Hammer: £9,696,690, -15% low presale estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 78%
    1. Above: 28% (39 lots)
    2. Within: 27% (37 lots)
    3. Below: 22% (31 lots)
    4. Unsold: 21% (29 lots)

Sotheby's Contemporary Day sale featured 136 lots, with 107 lots finding buyers, achieving a more commendable 78% sell-through rate. The sale included a variety of paintings and prints, generating more activity than the evening sale. This trend indicates the current market appetite, and the prices that buyers are willing to pay for works.

Here are the highlights:

The Most In Demand: Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney

The standout performers in Sotheby's day sale were undoubtedly the leading figures of American Pop and Contemporary art. These artists have displayed remarkable resilience in auction sales throughout the year, seemingly impervious to economic fluctuations. This trend indicates that investors are seeking secure investments, favouring artists' markets that demonstrate stability and maturity even in the face of current economic challenges.

Andy Warhol

The highlight of the auction was the iconic Superman (1981) from Andy Warhol's Myths series, a Trial Proof (TP) in a striking turquoise hue, which achieved a final price of £508,000 (with fees), falling comfortably within its estimated range of £400,000 to £600,000. A yellow TP 19/30 of the same print had recently set a new record at Sotheby’s September sales, selling for £317,500 (with fees), this sale marks a 60% increase over its previous value.

In another remarkable achievement from Warhol's sought-after print series, Mobil (1985) from Ads exceeded expectations, hammering at 125% over its low presale estimate of £100,000 and realising £158,750 (with fees). This piece was a TP, underscoring the unwavering interest in these prints, especially in rare colourways. This marked the print's third appearance in 2023 and set a new auction record, surpassing its previous high of £77,483 achieved at Phillips in 2020, doubling its value.

Additionally, two canvases by Warhol were featured. Flowers (1964) achieved £190,500 (with fees), marking the second appearance of a Flower canvas in this size in 2023. Lastly, Portrait of Craig Johnson (1985) performed exceptionally well, realising £241,300, surpassing its high estimate by 61%. A different version of this artwork was last auctioned at Sotheby's in June 2023, where it sold for £254,000 (with fees).

Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein Set Records

Keith Haring enjoyed a strong performance with Red Dog For Landois, a shaped steel sculpture created in 1986-87. Surpassing its high estimate of £200,000 by 14%, it realised £228,600 (with fees) and set a new auction record for the artwork. Previously, it was last sold at Phillips in May 2005 for £83,351 (with fees). Additionally, Roy Lichtenstein's Modern Room (1990) from the Interior Series also fared well, achieving £127,000 (with fees) positioning the artwork closer to the higher end of the presale estimates. The highest buyer-paid value before this sale was £91,392 (with fees) at Sotheby's in October 2020, marking a 39% increase from that amount.

David Hockney

Finally, a notable inclusion in the auction was a piece by the renowned British artist, David Hockney. From his consistently sought-after iPad drawings collection, The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire, 2011 (March 30, 2011) fetched £139,700 (with fees). This amount exceeded its high estimate of £100,000 by 40%, making its debut appearance at auction.

Browse American pop and Contemporary prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about the most in demand artist in The Print Report: The Most Wanted in 2023.

LOOKING TO SELL YOUR PRINTS?

Request a free and zero obligation valuation with our team without hesitation. Track your Warhol prints & editions with MyPortfolio.

CHRISTIE'S

20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale -13/10 (Live)

  1. Presale estimate: £40,630,000 - £58,180,000
  2. Sales Total Hammer: £36,442,000, -11% presale low estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 84%
    1. Above: 24% (13 lots)
    2. Within: 32% (17 lots)
    3. Below: 28% (15 lots)
    4. Unsold: 15% (8 lots)

Christie's evening auction commenced the day following Sotheby's evening sale, despite the Friday the 13th aura. Setting superstitions aside, the sale exhibited a commendable performance, outperforming Sotheby's by offering five additional lots than their combined The Now and Contemporary Evening sale. Out of 53 lots, Christie's successfully sold 45, achieving an impressive 84% sell-through rate. While many star lots met or fell below their pre-sale estimates, nine works commanded seven-figure bids at the hammer and Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat stole the show.

Here are the highlights:

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol

The standout piece of the auction was Jean-Michel Basquiat's Future Sciences Versus the Man, (1982), making its debut in the auction arena and backed by a third-party guarantee. The hammer fell at £8,800,000, likely going to the guarantor, ultimately realising £10,430,000 (with fees) within the estimated range, making it the highlight of the event.

While the sale of Andy Warhol's Diamond Dust Shoes (1980) faced challenges, Warhol's presence was felt through a painting titled Collaboration (1983-1985) executed by himself and his comrade Basquiat, making its fourth appearance at auction. This work hammered within estimates at £1,300,000 and achieved £1,613,000 (with fees). Remarkably, its value surged in previous sales, increasing by 142% in 2014 and 59% in 2016. This marked its first appearance in the market in over five years.

Browse American Pop and Contemporary prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about the print market growth in The Print Report: The Most Wanted in 2023.

LOOKING TO SELL YOUR BASQUIAT AND WARHOL PRINTS?

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Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale - 14/10 (Live)

  1. Presale estimate: £9,559,000 - £13,908,000
  2. Sales Total Hammer: £9,100,400, -5% low presale estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 82%
    1. Above: 30% (51 lots)
    2. Within: 34% (58 lots)
    3. Below: 17% (29 lots)
    4. Unsold: 17% (30 lots)

Premeiring on Saturday at 1pm, Christie's offered 168 lots during its Post-War and Contemporary art day sale, where 138 works found buyers resulting in a 82% sell-through rate. In this sale, Contemporary artists shinned.

Here are the highlights:

Damien Hirst, David Hockney and Yayoi Kusama

Rebel artist Damien Hirst showcased an impressive performance, with Wonderful Week (2008) surpassing expectations and fetching £327,600 (with fees) in its first-ever auction appearance. Two other prints from the same Love Poems series performed exceptionally well in the September sales. David Hockney also made a strong impact, setting a new record as Mo, Lucca (1973) achieved £157,500 (with fees), massively exceeding its £80,000 high estimate. This marked its second appearance at auction, having been previously sold at Sotheby's in May 1985 for £9,382 ($15,400) (with fees), a remarkable four decades ago, against an estimated value of £9,138 - £12,184. Additionally, Yayoi Kusama's painting, Pumpkin (1992) set a new record, fetching £327,600 (with fees) above estimates. This artwork is particularly sought after in the Asian market, with the highest buyer-paid value recorded at £191,434 (hammer) at Seoul Auction in May 2018.

Andy Warhol

In the realm of anticipated lots, Andy Warhol always delivers. Christie's unveiled a rare-to-the-market piece, a yellow screenprint featuring the renowned American actress and singer Pia Zadora, known for her roles in iconic 1980s films such as “Troop Beverly Hills’’ and John Waters' “Hairspray.’’ Warhol's celebrity portraits have gained significant traction this year. This particular artwork, available in off-white, red, orange, and blue versions, made its auction debut in the distinctive yellow hue, achieving £371,700 (with fees) against a £350,000 high estimate.

PHILLIPS

Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale - 13/10 (Live)

  1. Presale estimate: £17,585,000 - £24,175,000
  2. Sales Total Hammer: £14,520,000, -18% low presale estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 82%
    1. Above: 23% (11 lots)
    2. Within: 23% (11 lots)
    3. Below: 34% (16 lots)
    4. Unsold: 17% (8 lots)

During the Phillips Evening sale, a total of 46 lots were offered, out of which 39 found buyers, resulting in a commendable 82% sell-through rate. Surprisingly, renowned American Pop artists and favoured contemporary figures didn't perform as well in this sale. Instead, Urban art took the spotlight, particularly with the standout performance of Bristolian bad-boy, Banksy. The star of the show was a rare and newly introduced artwork, Forgive Us Our Trespassing (2011). This large-scale piece depicts a young child kneeling in prayer before an imposing Gothic stained-glass window, their head bowed in reverence. The composition clearly references religious iconography. However, Banksy subverts this traditional imagery by portraying the child wearing a hoodie pulled over their head and a baseball cap. Always politically astute, Banksy's work resonates strongly amidst the ongoing geopolitical unrest. This artwork fetched an impressive £2,710,000 (with fees) and stood out as the highlight of the sale. It's worth noting that a remarkably similar piece with the same title had achieved significant sales at Sotheby's Hong Kong in October 2020, solidifying Banksy's status as one of the top-selling artists.

Browse Banksy prints on the Trading Floor and find out more about The Banksy Print Market: Five Year In Review.

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Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - 13/10 (Live)

  1. Presale estimate: £7,884,000 - £11,651,000
  2. Sales Total Hammer: £5,612,250, -30% low presale estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 74%
    1. Above: 14% (19 lots)
    2. Within: 31% (41 lots)
    3. Below: 28% (37 lots)
    4. Unsold: 25% (34 lots)

In contrast to the approach taken by Christie's and Sotheby's, Phillips hosted its day sale before the evening event, debuting on Thursday, 12th of October. This sale featured 131 lots, out of which 97 found buyers, resulting in a 74% sell-through rate. Unfortunately, during this event, some works by blue-chip artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Bridget Riley, both on paper, failed to sell. This occurrence raises the question of whether certain artworks might fare better outside the auction model. Private brokers, such as MyArtBroker, can assist in finding suitable buyers during times that are not heavily reliant on auction cycles.

Here are the highlights:

Tracey Emin and Bridget Riley

Female artists made a strong impact in this sale, notably Tracey Emin and Bridget Riley. Emin, who has consistently captured media attention for her significant contributions to artistic development and support for fellow artists, presented a work on paper titled A Moment for You (2017), which achieved £31,750 (with fees), surpassing its £20,000 high estimate. Additionally, Op Art luminary Riley's piece, Untitled [Towards 'Fleeting Moment'] (1986), made its auction debut, fetching £38,100 (with fees).

Damien Hirst, Thierry Noir, The Connor Brothers

Damien Hirst's Beautiful Persephone Psychedelia Painting (2007), a large-scale spin painting, demonstrated its popularity by fetching £190,500 (with fees), falling within the upper range of its £200,000 high estimate. Thierry Noir, an artist we are closely following, also performed well with a painting titled I Feel Good with My New Running Shoes (2020), realising £30,480 (with fees), surpassing its high estimate of £20,000. Canvasses of similar size and style have sold between £18,926 ($22,860) and £100,800 (with fees). Additionally, an exciting lot, The Connor Brothers, Past Mistakes (2023), achieved £29,210 (with fees), an impressive 3.6 times its high estimate.

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