Basquiat Dominates Christie’s Contemporary Edition Sale

Erin-Atlanta Argun
written by Erin-Atlanta Argun,
Date of publication15 Mar 2024
Last updated15 Mar 2024
MARKET WATCH MARCH 2024
A screen print in colours on wove paper by Jean-Michel Basquiat depicting different symbols and written works against a yellow and blue background.Charles The First © Jean-Michel Basquiat 2004
Joe Syer

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

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Amidst a largely underwhelming sale at Christie’s Contemporary Edition in New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat emerged resilient. The majority of lots either sat at the lower end of presale estimates or hammered below, but - unsurprisingly - American Pop prints remained the focus of bidders’ attention. Alongside Basquiat, impressive sales were witnessed by Keith Haring and Roy Lichtenstein while other artists fell below the mark: clearly signifying appetite for more established artist markets.

Christie’s Contemporary Edition Sale: 14/03/2024

Presale Estimate: $1,549,300 - $2,257,700

Sales Total Hammer: $1,589,250

+1% the low presale estimate

83% sell-through rate

  1. Above: 25% (38)
  2. Within: 32% (50)
  3. Below: 25% (39)
  4. Unsold: 16% (25)

Analysis of Christie’s Contemporary Edition: The Numbers

Collectors gathered at Christie’s New York on 14 March 2024 for their Contemporary Edition sale, uniting some of the most recognisable names in the Post-War & Contemporary category. With an 83% sell-through rate, the sale underscored continued demand for blue chip artists. The distribution of lots - 25% selling above, 32% within, and 25% below estimates - reflects a market that is largely unwilling to bid above fair market value for editioned prints. While buyers seemed to be prepared to compete for exceptional works, they remained cautious when it came to lots with less historical gravitas and unusual subject matter.

While the sale only achieved 1% more than the low presale estimate, more than half of lots achieved within or above presale estimates - demonstrating a stable continuation of collector engagement in the contemporary edition space. Despite the global economic backdrop which poses challenges and uncertainties, the market for prints and editions shows resilience and adaptability. With many of the lots in this sale estimated below $15,000, there is a clear lean towards this more accessible entry-point into the wider art market, while certain blockbuster lots acted as testament to the investability of this burgeoning segment.

Here are the highlights:

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Jean-Michel Basquiat

The ever-inimitable Jean-Michel Basquiat truly stole the spotlight at Christie’s. Several Basquiat works were auctioned, demonstrating sustained demand and respect for this crucial artist’s work. Performing with particular vigour was Charles The First, which far-surpassed its presale estimate of $40,000-$60,000 and hammered for $25,000 above the high estimate. Realising $107,100, this sale marks an auction record - continuing the upward trajectory of this work’s sale history as it made its fourth appearance. From the same print portfolio, Cabeza comfortably reached its presale estimate to realise $69,300. Though this sale fell short of its record - which was set in October 2022 at $118,750 - this is the most popular posthumous Basquiat print on the market and it continues to yield high hammer prices.

Rome Pays Off and Jawbone Of An Ass also fetched $63,000 and $50,400, respectively: further evidence of the strong market presence these posthumous prints command. Furthermore, the unprecedented appearance and sale of Untitled (Head Of The Mandible) from Anatomy totally outstripped a modest presale estimate of $5,000-$7,000 and realised $34,020 - hammering 3.5 times the high estimate.

Explore our Jean-Michel Basquiat Investment Guide for 2024 to learn more about his print market performance.

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Andy Warhol

Three lots were offered by the King of Pop Art, Andy Warhol, none of which exceeded high estimates to a notable degree. His iconic Flowers realised $60,480, hammering comfortably at the upper end of the presale estimate. Portraits Of The Artists, on the other hand, hammered $6,000 below the low presale estimate and realised just $17,640 - a far cry from the works auction record of £37,818 ($57,500) - which was set at Phillips New York in 2010. Warhol’s portrait of Gertrude Stein, from the Ten Portraits Of Jews Of The Twentieth Century fared better, exceeding the high estimate to also realise $17,640. Though Warhol’s performance at this sale left more to be desired, this is not reflective of Warhol’s wider performance in the market thus far in 2024 - and is likely to be attributed more-so to the lack of his most iconic subject matter.

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Keith Haring

Two lower value Keith Haring works were offered at Christie’s Contemporary Edition, both achieving presale estimates but - much like Warhol’s lots - not exceeding them to a notable degree. A lithograph titled Keith Haring At Robert Fraser Gallery proved popular among bidders by exceeding the high estimate and realising $9,450. Likewise, The Paris Review, a screenprint in colours, realised $6,300 against an estimate of $5,000-$7,000. Though these works emerge from lesser known bodies of work by the originator of street art, Haring clearly continues to attract attention and demand with his timeless and inclusive iconography.

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Roy Lichtenstein

Another successful compatriot of Pop Art, Roy Lichtenstein, saw several lots exceeding their presale estimate. Known for his graphic and critical renderings of commercial art and culture saw strong results, particularly with CRAK!, one of his most iconic offset lithographs. The print realised $35,280, significantly surpassing the estimate of $18,000-$25,000. Also exceeding estimates were Still Life, From The Metropolitan Scene and Art Critic, which achieved $16,380 and $35,280, respectively. Lichtenstein’s prints remain a cornerstone of the Pop Art movement, and the artist continues to garner market success in Q1 of 2024.

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An etching by David Hockney depicting a woman with long curly hair staring out the picture plane beyond the viewer.Brenda © David Hockney 1998

David Hockney

The perpetually innovative David Hockney had some lesser-known prints offered at Christie’s Contemporary Edition. His two portraits of fellow contemporary artist Brenda Zlamany both hammered below low estimates: with Brenda achieving $15,120, and Brenda With Cigarette realising $12,600. Hockney’s Ink Test, 19th to 21st March also hammered below estimate by $10,000, and realised $37,800. While these sales were far from impressive, this again might be owed to a lack of quintessentially ‘Hockney’ subject matter.

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Damien Hirst

Three lots by the controversial contemporary artist Damien Hirst appeared at the Contemporary Edition sale. Hirst’s All You Need Is Love, Love, Love remained unsold, illustrating varied reception to Hirst’s oeuvre which is founded on polarising public opinion. Performing well was Benzyloxyurea, from the 40 Woodcut Spots series, which realised $22,680 and exceeded the presale estimate of $10,000-$15,000. Sitting comfortably within its estimate was Sanctum (Unique), an etching with photogravure and hand-colouring, which achieved $35,280, reflecting market demand for Hirst’s rarer prints - perhaps in response to the ever-growing edition numbers of his prints made in collaboration with HENI.

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The Contemporary Edition sale showcased a continued and robust demand for works by established artists. The enduring appeal of Pop and Contemporary artists was evident, suggesting bidders’ preference for artists with a more established market presence. Though several lots throughout the sale failed to dramatically exceed estimates, this might be owed to the lack of truly iconic and covetable subject matter on offer. Though the overall sale achieved its presale estimate, this omission of so-called blockbuster works stifled its ability to dazzle - something which will hopefully not be repeated in the final sales of Q1.

Joe Syer

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

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