Despite a week of political unease as America comes to terms with the reality of Donald Trump as President-elect, the market showed some strong sales. Christie’s New York held two major sales this week Post-war and contemporary and Impressionist and Modern Art.
The Post-war and contemporary auction took $276.9 million led by $66.34 million for Willem de Kooning’s painting ‘Untitled XXV’ 1977 that had a $40 million estimate. Brett Gorvy, chairman and international head of post-war and contemporary art, said that the sale was ‘a career highlight’ and especially personal to him as not only is De Kooning one of his favourite artists but in 2006 he helped bring the large abstract painting to the auction market for the first time when it sold for a then record price of $27.1 million which at the time was the highest price paid for a post-war and contemporary work of art.
The sale also included record prices for John Currin, Giuseppe Gallo ($300,000 against a $40-60,000 estimate) and Jonathan Horowitz. Other top prices were achieved by Jean Dubuffet, Gerhard Richter and Robert Ryman. Jean Dubuffet’s Les Grandes Arteres (1961) achieved the evening’s second-highest bid at $24.8 million while Eric Clapton’s Gerhard Richter abstraction Abstraktes Bild (1994) fetched $22 million and John Currin’s Nice ‘n Easy 1999 sold for $12 million which more than doubled Currin’s previous record of $5.5 million set at Sotheby’s New York in 2008 for the same work.
However, only 54 of the 61 lots sold in a market shaken by the results of the US presidential election. Notable failures were two works by Ed Ruscha with $4m and $6m estimates and the total fell short of last year’s $331.8m.
In the Impressionist and modern art sale, the total amounted to $246.3 million with 39 of the 48 lots selling. The highlight was Claude Monet’s painting ‘Meule’ 1891, part of his famous haystack series, which sold for $81.4 million a record for the French master. The previous record was in June 2008 when “Bassin aux nympheas” (“Water Lilies”) took $ 80.4 million at a sale in London. The final price for Meule, which includes fees and commission, crushed Christie’s pre-sale estimate of $45 million. The bidding for this lot lasted an unusually long fifteen minutes before selling to an anonymous phone bidder. The painting of just one haystack with a conical top at twilight is one of the rare works in this series to have still been in private hands, Christie’s said. Most of the others are in the Musee d’Orsay, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Art Institute of Chicago.
Other notable sales were $23.2 million with premium for Wassily Kandinsky’s Ridgide et Courbe 1934 as against an estimate of $18-24 million which also proved to be a record for Kandinsky. Picasso’s Buste de Femme (Dora Maar) 1938 sold for $22.6 million on an estimate of $18-25 and another Picasso Homme a la pipe 1969 sold for $18.4 million on a $15-20 million estimate.
A Cezanne landscape Paysage avec route et clocher Ile de France pres de Melun 1879-1880 with an estimate of $10-15m failed to sell.