Auction Watch September 2023: Prints & Multiples Sales at Bonhams and Phillips

A screenprint by Andy Warhol depicting Mick Jagger in black ink against a background of collaged colour panels in dark blue, grey, and gold. The print is signed by both Warhol and Jagger at the bottom of the composition.Mick Jagger (F. & S. II.142) © Andy Warhol 1975
Louis Denizet

Louis Denizet, Specialist[email protected]

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The art market has returned after summer vacation for a host of auctions. In the past fortnight, collectors and investors gathered - both in person and online - at Phillips and Bonhams' editions and works on paper auctions. Touting a range of impressive prints and multiples by leading blue chip artists, these sales bolstered the position of American Pop and Modern British masters.

These New York and London sales marked a steady start to the season, but revealed - once again - the pitfalls of the auction model when it comes to the market for prints and multiples. Across these three sales, many works failed to reach their low presale estimates, with a low percentile of works reaching above their high estimates. The auctions saw a large percentage of works fall below their presale estimates, with higher unsold rates than previously witnessed this year. However, it is clear that appetite remains strong for era-defining artists - notably Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and David Hockney - who yielded impressive results across the sales.

This week's auctions have proven the resilient nature of certain artist markets amidst financial uncertainty. Though many sales were kicked off in the past fortnight across Christie's, Sotheby's, Bonhams, and Phillips, many of these are not set to conclude until later this month. However, current results from the prints and multiples segment of the market are unveiling appetite in the art market as we approach the end of Q3.

Here are the highlights from September's auctions thus far:

Phillips New York: Editions & Works on Paper 6-13 September (Online)

  1. Presale estimate: $575,700 - $852,000
  2. Sales total (hammer): $598,307, +3% low presale estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 81%
  4. Total lots sold: 117/143
    1. Above: 20% (29 Lots)
    2. Within: 25% (36 Lots)
    3. Below: 36% (52 Lots)
    4. Unsold: 18% (26 Lots)

At Phillips New York, 117/143 offered lots were sold with a sell-through rate of 81%. Despite this, 54% of the lots in this sale were either unsold, or sold below their presale estimates. Proving that the auction model is - in reality - unsuitable for this segment of the market, versus private sales. Just 20% of lots (29 in total) reached above their high presale estimates, with star lots unsurprisingly emerging from American Pop masters who have been consistently resistant to market jitters.

Here are the top-performing artists from the auction:

ANDY WARHOL

Several works by the King of Pop, Andy Warhol, were offered at Phillips Editions & Works on Paper. The undeniable star lot of the sale was Warhol’s Mick Jagger (F. & S. 142), one of his sultry portraits of the Rolling Stones frontman. The screenprint, which is signed by both Warhol and Jagger and - as such - is a highly desirable work of both Pop Art and Rock & Roll history, hammered at its high estimate of $80,000. The work realised $101,600, and is the most recent print from Warhol’s Mick Jagger portfolio to hit the market in 2023. Another of these works was offered at Rago Arts and Auction Center in June 2023, where it realised £95,488. Clearly, demand remains strong for this culturally significant portfolio, which speaks to Warhol’s mastery over both medium and the keen portrayal of celebrity icons.

Warhol’s poignant depiction of Jacqueline Kennedy I (Jackie I), however, did not fare as well. Despite a rather conservative presale estimate of $8,000 - $12,000, the work hammered below estimate at $6,500 and realised $8,255 with fees. The record price for this piece was set at Christie’s in February 2018, where it realised £19,951 ($27,500) - more than double the amount achieved this week at Phillips.

Performing particularly well was Warhol’s Untitled 12, from For Meyer Schapiro (F. & S. 120), which far exceeded its high presale estimate of $9,000 to realise $19,050. This sale marked a record price for this work, which was previously set at Phillips in October 2022 where it realised £10,432 ($11,970). As we revealed in our recent American Pop Print Report, editioned proof prints like this have shown particularly strong market demand. This record-breaking sale is a testament to the desirability of Warhol’s Artist’s Proofs, and demonstrates healthy value growth within this segment of the Warhol market.

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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ROY LICHTENSTEIN

Also performing admirably at Phillips Editions & Works on Paper was Roy Lichtenstein, Pop proponent of mechanising art production. Lichtenstein's Brushstrokes exceeded its high presale estimate of $18,000 and realised $25,400. This particular print from Lichtenstein's portfolio has demonstrated a consistent and impressive upward trajectory in sales over the last five-year period, as demonstrated by MyArtBroker’s MyPortfolio.

Lichtenstein's Crak! also realised $20,320, reaching above its high presale estimate of $15,000. This work has successfully sold once previously in 2023, £20,818 ($25,000) at the hammer at Abell Auction Co. in Los Angeles. The work speaks to the central motifs which run across Lichtenstein's oeuvre, blending comic book imagery with Pop artistry.

Yielding a particularly strong result was Lichtenstein's Foot And Hand (C. II.4), an unnumbered proof. The work - which contains Lichtesntein's signature iconography with Ben Day Dots - far exceeded its high presale estimate of $10,000, with a realised price of $20,320.

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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YAYOI KUSAMA

Japanese Pop Artist Yayoi Kusama also proved popular at Phillips, though only one of her works was offered at the sale. Seeking The Soul (K.388) had a presale estimate of $12,000 - $18,000, and far exceeded this estimate by realising $30,480. The screenprint blends Kusama's signature polka-dot style with ethereal portraits in profile, making it a particularly covetable work with a small edition size of 30. This specific print was offered previously at SBI Art Auction Co, Ltd, Tokyo and achieved £12,424 (JPY 2,000,000 ), making this a record price for the work.

Browse Yayoi Kusama prints on the Trading Floor.

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Bonhams London: Prints & Multiples 20 September (Live)

  1. Presale estimate: £545,700 - £781,000
  2. Sales total (hammer): £500,605, -9% low presale estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 76%
  4. Total lots sold: 218/286
    1. Above: 20% (59 Lots)
    2. Within: 44% (126 Lots)
    3. Below: 11% (33 Lots)
    4. Unsold: 23% (68 Lots)

Concerns arose at Bonhams London after 68 lots from the entire sale remained unsold. With a lower sell-through rate of 76%, only 20% of lots were sold above their presale estimates. The sales total (hammer) fell 9% below the presale low estimate, achieving £500,605 overall. While certain artists remained resilient to the caution clearly present among bidders in this auction, these results make clear the predominance of private sale when it comes to getting the best deal for prints and multiples.

Here are the highlights from the auction:

A monochromatic etching by David Hockney depicting a man on his knees holding up a knife to a woman in a dress to the right of the composition.Image © Bonhams / Old Rinkrank Threatens The Princess © David Hockney 1969

DAVID HOCKNEY

Modern British Master, David Hockney, proved to be particularly resilient at this turbulent auction. Five lots were presented from Hockney's 1960s body of work, with a collective turnover of £13,312. These monochromatic works all hammered within, or above, their presale estimates and signal demand for early works from Hockney's expansive portfolio - which continues to grow to this date. Particularly popular from these 1960s works was his Old Rinkrank Threatens The Princess, which more than doubled its high presale estimate of £1,500 to realise £3,200.

Unsurprisingly, prints from Hockney's more contemporary body of work executed on the artist's iPad were the most popular among bidders at Bonhams. In particular, Untitled No.346 from Hockney's acclaimed A Bigger Book performed particularly well. The colourful iPad drawing depicting one of Hockney's most beloved subjects - flowers - far exceeded its presale estimate of £15,000 - £20,000, realising £32,000. The popularity of Hockney's iPad works was also made highly apparent at the David Hockney-only auction at Phillips this week, which saw resounding success with a 100% sell-through rate. This particular work is rare to the market, and this sale marks its second appearance in 2023. Thanks to this scarcity in the market, coupled with its universally appreciated subject matter, this print bolsters the position of Hockney's contemporary works.

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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DAMIEN HIRST

Several works by the King of Controversy, Damien Hirst, were passed at this Bonhams sale. Despite this, demand was high for certain series from Hirst's ever-growing portfolio of prints. Particularly popular, and aligning with a growing trend in Hirst's market we have witnessed throughout 2023, was his H9 The Virtues series. All three of the works from this series which were offered at Bonhams sat comfortably within their presale estimates. Notably, Control fared the best of the three. All of The Virtues prints had a presale estimate of £8,000 - £12,000; this particular work realised £10,880.

This sale affirms the popularity of this particular work on the market, which has seen 13 successful sales within the last 12-month period. The buyer-paid value of Control varies between £10,200 and £20,112, showing the steadfast market for this celebrated series.

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

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BANKSY

Amidst a potentially corrective period in Banksy's market, certain hero works continued to perform admirably at Bonhams. Though three out of the five works offered were passed, Banksy's iconic Girl With Balloon (unsigned) reached above its high presale estimate to realise £82,950. Undeniably Banksy's most popular portfolio of works, 10 of his Girl With Balloon prints have successfully sold in 2023. Though this particular sale marked a lower price-point than usual, the average selling price (ASP) for the work in the last 12-month period is £110,370 - making this a continually desirable work from Banksy's subversive portfolio.

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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Phillips London: Evening & Day Editions 20-21 September (Live)

  1. Presale estimate: £2,055,700 - £2,988,100
  2. Sales total (hammer): £2,237,156, +7% low presale estimate
  3. Sell-through rate: 85%
  4. Total lots sold: 238/279
    1. Above: 21% (59 Lots)
    2. Within: 40% (114 Lots)
    3. Below: 23% (65 Lots)
    4. Unsold: 14% (41 Lots)

At Phillips London's Evening & Day Editions, a far healthier sell-through rate of 85% was achieved - with 238 out of the 279 lots being sold. Despite this more positive result however, the sale overall only reached 7% above its low presale estimate; with only 20% of lots reaching above their high estimates. Overall, 47% of lots either fell below their low estimates or remained unsold. While era-defining artists continued to perform phenomenally, the fact that nearly half of the lots in this sale failed to fall within their presale estimates reveals the risks associated to selling editioned works via auction.

Here are the highlights from the sale:

Andy Warhol's Queen Elizabeth II Soars Above Estimate

Once again, Warhol proved unsurprisingly popular at Phillips. Shortly after the anniversary of the late Queen Elizabeth II's death, Warhol's dazzling homage to the British monarch performed astonishingly. With a presale estimate of £120,000 - £180,000, Queen Elizabeth II (Royal Edition) (F. & S. II.334A) hammered far above the high estimate at £205,000 and realised £260,350. While this was not a record price for the royal portrait, which was set at Christie's London in 2022 at £327,600, this sale certainly proves both the revered nature of Warhol's Reigning Queens series and the enduring legacy of a beloved Queen alike.

Likewise, the same print of Jacqueline Kennedy which failed to reach its presale estimate at Phillips New York Editions & Works on Paper performed admirably in this sale. Hammering above its high presale estimate, the work realised a commendable £12,065 at this following sale.

KEITH HARING

Though only one Keith Haring lot was offered at this Phillips sale, it certainly proved the ceaseless craze for Haring's universally readable iconography. An AP edition of Haring's Best Buddies - one of the artist's most recognisable, and indeed iconic, works - far exceeded its high presale estimate. Hammering £10,000 above the high estimate, the print realised an exemplary £35,560. This exceptional sale proves the popularity of Haring's iconic figures, and the high market demand for special editioned proof prints from the American Pop genre.

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

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Lichtenstein's Two Nudes Reaches High Presale Estimate

Likewise, Lichtenstein also produced some impressive results at Phillips London. In particular, Two Nudes from Lichtenstein's celebrated Nudes series set an auction record. The work had a presale estimate of £100,000 - £200,000 and hammered at the high estimate, realising a formidable £254,000. The previous auction record was set at Sotheby's in 2019, where Two Nudes fetched £187,500 - marking this sale at Phillips as a particularly outstanding record. The sale speaks to the preeminence of Lichtenstein's Nudes series in the Pop Artist's portfolio, mingling his comic book-esque iconography with the art historical tradition of nude studies.

An array of promising results from Phillips Evening & Day Editions spoke to the enduring nature of the American Pop market, continually existent to macroeconomic issues. However, across all three of this fortnight's sales, a very low percentile of works were able to soar above their high presale estimates. These three sales particularly spotlight the unsuitability of the auction model for this segment of the market.

We anticipate the conclusion of September's sales across Sotheby's, Christie's, Bonhams and Phillips.