Following a somewhat underwhelming start to the Q4 marquee sales in London, the art world swiftly shifts its focus to New York for the Q4 print sales, where the next round of November marquee sales will follow. Prints and editions have proven to be a resilient competitive advantage in 2023. These artworks, priced mostly between $100,000 to $1,000,000, form the core of the market, driving substantial sales. The gallery booths at Frieze week showcased works from blue chip artists, and this trend extended seamlessly into the auction arena. The prints market of these artists' are exceptionally fascinating as the various series that these artists produced illuminates their unwavering creativity. It's particularly captivating to witness less-known series consistently emerge, with artworks surpassing previous auction records even amidst challenging economic conditions. Additionally, what appears in print sales often influences the marquee auctions. This trend underscores the resilience and dynamic nature of the print market, acting as a vibrant archive that unveils the specific genres and series art buyers are keen to acquire.
During the last five days, Sotheby’s and Phillips showcased an extensive selection of 637 print works, with 544 finding buyers. While these sales featured impressive pieces from renowned artists, a notable absence was the representation of women artists. Stay tuned for our upcoming auction report, where we will explore prints and multiples sales at Christie’s and Bonhams.
Among the 134 lots that were sold, a substantial 63% exceeded or met their estimated values. The auction featured works from a diverse range of artists spanning from the 19th century to the present day, with prominent attention on blue chip branded artists. Pieces by Ed Ruscha, Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella were showcased, performing steadily. Notably, Gretchen (1984) from Robert Longo’s renowned Men in Cities series fetched over $50,000, surpassing the high estimate with fees. Cy Twombly's, Roman Notes VI (Bastian 26) (1970), achieved an impressive sale, reaching $165,100 (including fees), double its high estimate. Banksy also made a presence, presenting three lots—Trolley’s, Thrower (Grey) and Monkey Queen—all selling within estimated values (including fees). However, the real standouts were American Pop artists and David Hockney, solidifying their dominance in the sale and showcasing their robust markets.
Here are the highlights:
In Sotheby’s auction, three lots by Keith Haring garnered a total of $434,340 (including fees). Among these lots were two Pop Shop works, a trend that emerged at the beginning of 2023. Pop Shop I, Plate IV (1987) was offered and sold, hammering squarely within estimates at $22,000. The final price, with fees, reached $27,940, just surpassing the high estimate of $25,000. This sale marked the fourth appearance of this artwork in the market this year. Another highlight from the Pop Shop collection was Pop Shop I (complete set) (1987), which exceeded expectations. It hammered at $140,000, setting a new auction record at $177,800 (including fees). This surpassed its previous record of $100,800, established during its last sale at Sotheby’s in October 2022, indicating a remarkable 76% increase in sales value. The star lot among Haring’s works was Andy Mouse 2 (1986), realising $228,600 (including fees) and positioning within Haring's top ten selling works for 2023. Haring’s Andy Mouse series gained significant traction in 2023, featuring the popular and endearing cartoon caricature of his friend and contemporary, Andy Warhol.
One of David Hockney’s lesser-known collections, The Weather series, has gained attention in 2023 and didn't go unnoticed during this sale with various works presented. The entire collection is comprised of ten works. Created in 1973, these works were influenced by traditional Japanese woodblock printing techniques. Hockney skilfully utilises colour to evoke different emotions and perceptions, evident in Sun, which sold for $63,500 (including fees) falling within the estimated range. Rain, offered as an Aritst Proof (AP), fetched $82,550 (including fees), coming second to the auction record set in the recent September Q3 sales and Lightning achieved a new auction record, selling for $25,400 (including fees). Lightening was last sold in March 2019 for £7,500 (GBP). The new record represents a 2.78-fold increase from its previous value. Wind also set a new record, a rare work that last appeared at auction in 2017. The previous record was set in 2014 for £6,250 (GBP). This work just sold for $25,400 (including fees) also representing a nearly 3-fold increase in sales value.
Two other works from this series were offered. Snow sold for $53,340 (including fees), surpassing its $50,000 high estimate, and Mist sold for $40,640 (including fees), exceeding its $35,000 high estimate. Hockney's The Weather series are rare to the secondary market, with some resurfacing annually while others have been absent from the market for up to five years.
Andy Warhol, the King of Pop always delivers with numbers within auction sales. During Sotheby's sale, 17 is the number of works offered. Four is the number of new records set. Seven is the number of works that surpassed $100,000 in sales value and $2,021,445 is the total turnover of works sold. Moonwalk Suite (1987) was the star lot of the entire sale, selling for $635,000 (including fees), also setting a new auction record for the work. This set of two screenprints featuring Neil Armstrong’s iconic 1969 photograph of Buzz Aldrin’s moonwalk have been highly sought after in 2023. The prints were last seen in September at Christie’s as an AP, selling for £441,000 (GBP). This sale marks a +17% increase in sales value.
Two Mick Jagger prints by Warhol were offered, both performing handsomely. Mick Jagger (F. & S. II.143) (AP) sold for $215,900 (including fees), surpassing its previous sale at Bonhams in March 2023, where it was sold for £152,400 (GBP). Another standout piece, Albert Einstein (F. & S. II.229) (1980) from Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, achieved remarkable success, selling for $127,000 (including fees), exceeding its high estimate of $70,000 and setting an auction record. This print is exceptionally rare in the market, last seen in 2020. Dracula (F. & S. IIB.264) (1981) from Myths, a Trial Proof (TP), also sold for $127,000 (including fees) setting a new record. Beethoven (F. & S. IIB.390-393) (TP) (1987) established a new benchmark for the highest buyer-paid value at a branded auction house for a single print from this series, also selling for $127,100 (including fees). This achievement surpassed its most recent sale of £101,600 set in September this year at Phillips for a regular editioned print.
Phillips Editions and Works on Paper auction showcased an extensive collection with 471 lots spanning three sales – one evening sale and two consecutive day sales. Encompassing Urban, Contemporary, and 20th and 21st-century artworks, this sale demonstrated a success, with over half of the presented works selling at or above their estimates. While notable pieces from the 20th century, including works by Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and other renowned art historical figures, found buyers, like Sotheby's sale, it was the works of American Pop and Contemporary artists that stood out, driving the market's momentum this year. While Roy Lichtenstein's presence was less pronounced in Sotheby's auction, he unquestionably dominated the Phillips sale.
Here are the highlights:
A larger collection of Roy Lichtenstein prints was presented in this auction compared to the Sotheby’s sale, featuring 16 works, all of which found buyers. Standing out were three works created in the 1960s featuring Lichtenstein’s classic comic book rendition of female faces in cropped portrait style. Among these works, The Melody Haunts My Reverie (1965) was the top performer, selling for $158,750 (including fees). While these works performed within estimates, the expected results underscored the heightened popularity and demand surrounding Lichtenstein’s best trending series throughout 2023: his Nudes. Nude With Yellow Pillow (AP) (1994) performed exceptionally well, realising $546,100 with fees, surpassing its high estimate by 1.5 times, setting a new auction record by 63% increase in value from its previous high sale at Sotheby’s in 2021 and was the star lot of the entire sale. This sale also ranked within Lichtenstein's top ten selling prints for 2023.
Another standout performer was Seascape (1985) from the Landscapes Series. This work was first offered, and set a record, in Sotheby’s Prints & Multiples sale, which closed the day prior. At Sotheby’s, the work sold for $69,850 aligning with estimates. However, its performance at Phillips dwarfed Sotheby’s sale, more than doubling its high estimate of $70,000 and achieving $165,100 (including fees), establishing a more significant auction record. Tel Aviv Museum Print (1989) also set a new record, more than doubling its high estimate of $35,000, reaching $88,900 (including fees). The previous record for this print was set over five years ago in 2017 for $62,500 at Sotheby’s, demonstrating a 42% increase in sales value.
Andy Warhol's performance at Phillips' sale was impressive, featuring a diverse selection from rare series, offering valuable insights into trending works. Despite several complete sets selling successfully, it was Warhol's individual prints that stole the show. Notably, a complete set of Flowers remained unsold, emphasising the demand for complete sets with matching edition numbers, which hold the highest value.
In the spotlight were three prints from Warhol's acclaimed Endangered Species series, making a notable return in Q4 after an absence in Q2 and Q3. Giant Panda (F & S. II.295) (1983) and Bighorn Ram (F. & S. II.302) (1983) demonstrated solid performances, fetching $127,000 and $139,700 with fees, respectively. However, it was Turtle (F. & S. II.360A) (1985), an AP, that set a new auction record, selling for $101,600 (including fees), surpassing the work’s previous record by 13%.
Another highlight was Rebel Without a Cause (James Dean) (F. & S. II.355) (TP), (1985) from the Ads series. This TP, featuring a unique colour palette, set a new auction record at $222,250 (including fees), exceeding the previous record for this work by 1.35 times. Muhammad Ali (F. & S. II.179), (1978), a rare-to-market print, fetched $165,000 (including fees), marking only its third appearance to the secondary market in the last five years and setting a new record with a 1.9 increase in sales value. Additionally, Mao (F. & S. II.97), (1972), set a new record at $88,900 (including fees), showing a 22% increase in sales value compared to the previous record in 2020.
Albert Einstein (F. & S. II.229) (AP) (1980) emerged in Phillips' sale, the same print that recently set a record at Sotheby's. Despite maintaining its auction record at Sotheby’s, this work fetched $88,900 (including fees) at Phillips, making it the second-highest buyer-paid value for this print despite a modest high estimate of $12,000. We anticipate these rare prints will continue to trend. The complete set of Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, to which this print belongs, remains one of Warhol's top-selling works in 2023 as a TP. Additionally, Warhol’s 1975 Ladies and Gentlemen series saw two portraits performing exceptionally well, tripling their modest $6,000 high estimates. Ladies and Gentlemen (F. & S. II.I35) (1975) sold for $21,950 (including fees), while Ladies and Gentlemen (F. & S. II.I32) (1975) sold for $24,120 (including fees). Less frequently seen in the market, Warhol’s prints such as Brooklyn Bridge (F. & S. II.290) (TP), (1983) sold at the high estimate, fetching $76,200 (including fees). Additionally, Truck (F. & S. II.367) (1985), an Hors Commerce, exceeded expectations by 37%, realising $48,260, surpassing the high estimate.
Jean-Michel Basquiat continued to shine in Phillips' sale, with his posthumous prints maintaining their appeal. Flexible (1984/2016), signed by the administrators of his estate, sold for $127,000 (including fees), slightly exceeding its previous record of $126,000 set at Christie’s in July this year. This sale marks the fourth appearance of the work in 2023, and each subsequent sale has seen its value increase.
Harland Miller, whose market experienced some fluctuations this year made an impressive comeback in this sale. This is Where it's Fuckin At (2016) sold for $88,900 (including fees), setting a new record for its second appearance on the secondary market and surpassing its initial sale in May 2019 at Bonhams Knightsbridge, where it sold for £51,200 (GBP). MyArtBroker’s algorithm on MyPortfolio accurately assessed the value of this artwork, estimating it between £70,000 - £100,000.
Finally, and notably, Damien Hirst’s Spots series maintains its strong performance, as emphasised in our recent market report. Perillartine (2012), achieved a hammer price of $7,500, nearly double its high estimate, and realised $9,525 (including fees), underscoring the enduring popularity of these pieces.
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