Art Market

A $7.3 million Kerry James Marshall painting helped Sotheby’s to its best-ever Contemporary Curated sale.

Nate Freeman
Mar 4, 2019 6:14PM, via press release

Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Painter), 2008. Sold for $7,325,800. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s notched its highest grossing Contemporary Curated auction ever on Friday as works by African-American artists Kerry James Marshall and Jack Whitten soared above their high estimates in the New York saleroom and sold in the millions—big numbers for a sale that usually serves as a springboard for younger artists into the more prominent day sales during the auction weeks of May and November. The sale brought in a record $36.8 million, well above its $30.8 million high estimate.

The star lot of the evening was Kerry James Marshall’s Untitled (Painter) (2008), a striking portrait of an artist at an easel with a paint-stained smock. Saddled with an already ambitious high estimate of $2.5 million, bidding pushed the final price to more than twice that sum, hammering at $6.2 million, or $7.3 million with fees. The sale further establishes Sotheby’s as the go-to place to consign a work by Marshall—last May, Diddy bought the artist’s Past Times (1997) for a record price of $21.1 million.

Jack Whitten, Spell Checking, 1974. Sold for $2,660,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

The record-breaking Whitten painting, Special Checking (1974), sold for $2.7 million with fees, smashing the previous record of $2.2 million that was achieved just last November at Sotheby’s New York.

A record price was also achieved for Loie Hollowell, and George Condo continued his auction hot streak when Smiling Girl with Black Hair (2008) sold for $1.3 million.

In a statement, Charlotte Van Dercook, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated auctions in New York, said:

We are overjoyed with the results of today’s sale, which achieved our highest-ever total in the Curated auction series for second season in a row. Sotheby’s had the privilege of again presenting a masterwork by Kerry James Marshall, whose Untitled (Painter) brought the second-highest price for the artist at auction. Following the morning’s white-glove sale of works by women artists to benefit financial aid at Miss Porter’s School, three of our top ten prices in today’s Curated sale were achieved by Alice Neel, Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama. It is with this tremendous momentum that we look to London for our Contemporary Art auctions next week.

Indeed, while the sale took place stateside, these kinds of results can be nothing but good tidings for those getting ready to hold contemporary evening sales across the pond. The London auctions begin tomorrow with the evening sale at Sotheby’s New Bond Street saleroom in Mayfair, followed by day sales Wednesday morning.

Nate Freeman
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019