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Art Market

The contemporary art market regains its swagger

28 May 2017

Apollo’s regular round-up of art market headlines and comment. Visit Apollo Collector Services for expert advice on navigating the art market.

The contemporary art market regains its swagger | $1.6 billion-worth of contemporary art changed hands during the spring auction series in New York. This is more than a billion short of the total fetched back in May 2015 when the market was at its peak, but up more than 25 per cent on last year’s showing.

An untitled skull painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat grabbed the headlines, soaring to $110.5m at Sotheby’s Post-war and Contemporary Art evening sale – a record for any American artist at auction. The work was painted by the artist at the age of 21, and had been consigned at the 11th-hour by the family of the late real-estate magnate Jerry Spiegel. It was knocked down to the Japanese collector and businessman, Yusaku Maezaea, who announced the purchase via his Twitter and Instagram accounts. ‘You have this new generation of billionaire coming up and they’re going to pay whatever they have to pay for certain artists, at whatever level low, mid, high,’ the dealer David Nisenson told the Art Newspaper.

Untitled (1982), Jean-Michel Basquiat

Untitled (1982), Jean-Michel Basquiat. Image courtesy Sotheby’s

Roy Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day dot Nude Sunbathing, which was guaranteed, sold within estimate at $24m. Both lots propelled Sotheby’s evening sale total to $319.2m, which helped to gloss over the auction house’s shaky start to the week – when the cover lot of its Impressionist and Modern art sale, an Egon Schiele estimated at a punchy $30–$40m, was withdrawn just prior to the auction.

At Christie’s, the Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale made $448m, near its upper guide. Top-performing lots included works by Cy Twombly, Francis Bacon, Basquiat and Andy Warhol – although the auction house also suffered the withdrawal of a major painting – Willem de Kooning’s Untitled II, which had been estimated at $25–$35m.

Christie’s most eye-catching lot of the week came in its Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale, however, in which $57.4m was paid for La muse endormie, an early bronze sculpture by Constantin Brancusi from 1913.

Phillips 20th-Century and Contemporary Art evening sale set a new auction record for Peter Doig. Rosedale (1991), sold for $28.8m and also established a new high for a work by a living British artist.

Major lots unveiled for London | London is the next stop for the modern and contemporary art auction circus. Appearing on the market for the first time on 21 June at Sotheby’s is Wassily Kandisnky’s Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus (1909). Estimated at £15m–£25m, it is a rare work dating from the artist’s expressionist moment and marks his transition from figurative painting to abstraction.

Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus (1909), Wassily Kandinsky

Murnau – Landschaft mit grünem Haus (1909), Wassily Kandinsky. Image courtesy Sotheby’s

Meanwhile, Christie’s has secured a brooding landscape by Egon Schiele, painted during the First World War, for its Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 27 June. Einzelne Häuser (Häuser mit Bergen) (1915) is estimated at £20m–£30m. Vincent Van Gogh’s Moissonneur (d’après Millet), painted in 1889 – the year that the artist left Arles and admitted himself into an asylum – appears in the same sale with a guide price of £12.5m–£16.5m.

Art Informel in Vienna | European abstract paintings from the post-war Art Informel movement take centre stage at Dorotheum’s Contemporary Art sale in Vienna on 31 May. Works offered include examples of Hans Hartung’s freewheeling line canvases, paintings by Georges Mathieu and Emilio Vedova, and a small but energetic work by Nicolas De Stael. Composition (1950) is estimated at €200,000–€300,000.

Composition (1950), Nicolas de Staël

Composition (1950), Nicolas de Staël. Image courtesy Dorotheum

PAD expands to Geneva | The design fair PAD is to launch a new event in Geneva, Switzerland, next year. PAD Genève, a collaboration with the contemporary and modern art fair artgenève, will take place from 31 January 31–4 February and will include 25 dealers of decorative arts, design and tribal art.

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