This auction house’s 20th Century Evening Sale defied expectations with a net of $640.8 million and six record-breaking works from artists like Fernando Botero, Joan Mitchell, and Richard Diebenkorn.
Despite fears of a weakening art market, Christie’s recent 20th Century Evening sale defied all expectations by bringing home a total of $640.8 million with fees (a hammer total of $543.4 million), as per The Art Newspaper. This is the auction house’s highest result for a non-single owner sale in six years, the last instance being in 2017 when it made $785.9 million with fees.
ARTnews reports that out of 63 works, only two were withdrawn as the rest found buyers. Attendees gave several rounds of applause throughout the auction. There was plenty of warm reception toward Jussi Pylkkänen, an auctioneer who led the first half of the sale that marked his retirement after 38 years of service to Christie’s.
“It was an excellent sale, with lots of good, fresh material, which is exactly what the market wants,” shared advisor David Norman to ARTnews.
It comes as no surprise that the auction’s top seller was also one of the most anticipated works for sale this year: Claude Monet’s large-scale water lily painting, “Le bassin aux nymphéas (1917-1919).” According to Artnet News, the piece fetched $74 million with premium, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of $65 million. Meanwhile, the auction’s second-highest sale was that of Francis Bacon’s “Figure in Movement (1976),” which fetched $52.2 million with fees.
The works of six artists also broke auction records during the evening sale:
“The Musicians” by Fernando Botero
Colombian artist Fernando Botero passed away earlier this year at the age of 91. However, his legacy lives on as his 1991 piece “The Musicians” sold for $5.1 million with fees (a hammer price of $4.2 million), as per ARTnews. This is an all-new record for the artist; his work “Man on a Horse” was the previous record-holder, having fetched $4.3 million in a 2022 Christie’s auction.
“Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad” by Richard Diebenkorn
California-based artist Richard Diebenkorn’s “Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad (1965)” set a new auction record for the artist, as it fetched $46.4 million with fees.
As per The Art Newspaper, the record surpasses that of Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park #40 (1971),” which sold for $27.2 million in a 2021 Sotheby’s auction. ARTnews adds that “Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad” is the fourth priciest lot of the evening sale. Christie’s auction also marks the very first time the abstract painting has gone under the hammer, as reported by Barron’s.
“Charred Beloved I” by Arshile Gorky
Arshile Gorky’s “Charred Beloved I (1946)” fetched $23.4 million with fees, setting a new record for the Armenian-American painter. His last record-breaking piece was “Good Afternoon, Mrs. Lincoln,” which sold for $14 million in a 2018 Christie’s auction.
“Charred Beloved I” came from the collection of media mogul David Geffen, who owned it for 30 years. It’s a recognizable artwork from Gorky, who created it just weeks after his studio caught fire, according to Barron’s.
“Untitled painting (from circa 1959)” by Joan Mitchell
The works of three female artists also set new auction records during the evening sale. One of them was an “Untitled” painting from circa 1959 by Joan Mitchell. The dense and expressive piece had never been auctioned before.
“Untitled” fetched $29.1 million with fees, according to The Art Newspaper. The media outlet adds that Mitchell’s previous record belonged to her piece “Blueberry (1969),” which sold for $16.6 million in a 2018 Christie’s auction.
“The Family of Man: Ancestor II (1974)” by Barbara Hepworth
English sculptor Barbara Hepworth was the second woman whose work set an all-new auction record. Her 1974 piece entitled “The Family of Man: Ancestor II” sold for $11.6 million with fees (a $9.7 million hammer price), as per ARTnews. This goes beyond the work’s pre-sale estimate of $4 million to $6 million.
Hepworth’s last auction record was set by her piece “Elegy III,” which fetched $8.6 million at a 2022 Christie’s auction.
“The Stripper” by Joan Snyder
Last but not least in the roster of record-setting pieces by female artists is Joan Snyder’s “The Stripper,” which sold for $478,000 with fees (hammer price of $380,000). This also beats the initial estimate of the work at $80,000.
“The Stripper” is composed of strips of painted canvas, which Snuder used to create horizon lines, as per Artnet News. The media outlet also states that its higher sale value indicates a hot demand for abstract expressionist art. Snyder’s previous record was held by her piece “Celebration,” which fetched $239,400 in another Christie’s auction just this year.
Banner photo from the Christie’s website.