Pop Art Sales Soar: Editions & Works on Paper Auction, Highlights - February 2023

Crying Girl © Roy Lichtenstein 1963 | MyArtBrokerCrying Girl © Roy Lichtenstein 1963
Rebecca Marsham

Rebecca Marsham, Sales Director[email protected]

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At Phillips New York's Editions & Works on Paper auction, the American Pop Art market has shown itself to be a steadfast investment once again. With strong results from Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, masters of American Pop continue to yield high value growth.

On the 15th February 2023, collectors gathered at Phillips NY for an eclectic auction of editions and works on paper. Prior to the auction, Head of Sale Sarah Browne described the auction as “unexpected”, bringing together an array of artists and works in different media. Indeed, the results from the sale were just as unexpected. The auction saw record-breaking prices for Warhol's lesser-celebrated illustrative works and Haring's monotone prints.

Also included in the auction were two works by Alex Katz, which comfortably reached their estimates. Also soaring above its high estimate of $3,500 was David Hockney's Steps Into Water, May 1975, from Twenty Photographic Pictures. This was the only Hockney work presented at the auction, and the photograph smashed its high estimate, realising $18,900.

However, it was American Pop Art which truly stole the show. Here are the highlights from the auction:

“This is a sale of the unexpected.”
Sarah Browne - Specialist, Head of Sale, Associate Vice President, Modern & Contemporary Editions

ANDY WARHOL

Once again, the Andy Warhol market continues to thrive and establish itself as one of the most secure and significant artist markets. In its second appearance at auction in 2023, Warhol's Jacqueline Kennedy II (F. & S. II.14) more than doubled its high estimate of $18,000 - realising $44,100. Last month, the same print sold at Phillips London for a whopping realised price of £52,920, testifying to the historical significance of the Jackie Kennedy series.

Also performing particularly well from Warhol's screen print oeuvre was Cow (F. & S. 12A). The colourful print was last sold in December 2022 at Deutscher & Hackett Melbourne, where it realised £17,716. This week at Phillips, the work realised $37,800, far exceeding its $18,000 high estimate.

Image © Phillips / Kyoto by Andy Warhol - MyArtBrokerImage © Phillips / Kyoto © Andy Warhol 1956

Rather surprisingly, the true star of the show was Warhol's early illustrative works. The most impressive of these sales was Kyoto. Despite only being estimated between $3,000-$5,000, the black ink drawing fetched $36,540, massively exceeding the estimate and any previous sale history. The work was previously sold for $6,250 in June 2022, and has been listed as ‘unsold‘ twice, making this a true record-breaking sale.

Also from Warhol's early works, Happy Butterfly Day soared above its high estimate of $2,000, realising $17,640. Likewise, Four In One (which hadn't appeared at auction prior to this week's sale) realised $12,600, exceeding its high estimate of $8,000.

This sale is a testament to the ever-growing popularity of Warhol's works, and an increasing interest in his pre-Pop Art oeuvre. Though Warhol is of course best known for his 1960s celebrity portraiture and snapshots of pop culture, it was these early beginnings in commercial illustrations which laid the groundwork for Pop Art.

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ROY LICHTENSTEIN

The Roy Lichtenstein market continues to prove a classic long term investment, with particularly strong value growth in the past 24 months. Unsurprisingly, the most impressive Lichtenstein sale of the day was his iconic Crying Girl, which smashed its high estimate of $35,000 and realised $60,480. The lithograph was last sold in December 2022 at Koller Auctions for CHF 34,460, making this week's sale at Phillips a record-breaker.

This impressive sale suggests not only the strong position of the Lichtenstein market as we enter 2023, but also the enduring historical significance of his work. Part of his comic book heroine body of work, Lichtenstein's printed works have a universal appeal - perhaps contributing to their continual value growth at auction.

Also performing particularly well was Lichtenstein's Moonscape C. 37, which realised $30,240 - sitting comfortably within the pre-sale estimate of $25,000-35,000. The print bridges Lichtenstein's interest in modern print culture and abstraction, and is a unique work in the Pop Art genre.

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KEITH HARING

Historically significant, the Keith Haring market continues to thrive with high selling prices. Though only two Haring works appeared for sale at the Phillips sale, both exceeded their high pre-sale estimates by a considerable margin. Performing particularly well was Untitled 1982 1-6 (one plate), which realised $35,280 and more than doubled its pre-sale estimate of $15,000. Last sold in April 2017 for $12,500, this was the highest sale of this particular work to date.

This work is unique to Haring's wider oeuvre, as his usual vibrant colour palette is swapped here for monotone. Reminiscent of his Blueprint Drawings, this work makes explicit references to sex, religion, death and AIDS as a means to confront the viewer with difficult issues of the time.

Ascent, Liberty, Leeches, Olympic by Jean-Michel Basquiat - MyArtBrokerAscent, Liberty, Leeches, Olympic © Jean-Michel Basquiat 2017

JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

Though Jean-Michel Basquiat's prints are rare to appear at auction, their continual value growth is reflective of Basquiat's significance in the history of art. A set of four prints from Basquiat's Daros Suite series appeared at the Phillips auction. The set realised $119,700, surpassing its estimate of $60,000-90,000.

This was the first time that four artworks from the main edition went to auction together. Though AP versions of these prints went up for auction at Bukowski's Sweden in November 2019, they did not sell. In recent sales, these four prints have performed well individually, testifying to the significance of this series in Basquiat's oeuvre.

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BANKSY

Despite corrections in the past year, the Banksy market is beginning to mature towards a tendency for mid- to long-term investment. Though American Pop was the star of this auction, one Banksy work performed particularly well. Ironically, Banksy's Banksquiat (Grey) - a collaboration of visual motifs between the street artist and Basquiat - was one of the most impressive sales of the day. Realising $113,400, the print smashed its pre-sale estimate of $60,000-80,000.

This admirable sale proves not only the abiding popularity of Banksy, but also the ever-increasing popularity of Basquiat's work. Banksquiat (Grey) is a conversation between these two titans of street art who, despite working in two very different ages, seem to be united in their passion for a democratic approach to art.

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