01 Energetic post-war and contemporary auctions in New York this week, including $98 million spent by a single Japanese billionaire, helped bolster confidence in what is seen as an uncertain art market.
The series of contemporary auctions began on Sunday, when Christie’s and Phillips together sold 76 lots totalling $124.7 million. Led by ’s Him
(2001), a sculpture of Hitler kneeling (sold for $17.2 million), the curated auction “Bound to Fail” at Christie’s made a total of $78.1 million. Although within the auction house’s target range, that figure was nine times less than it tallied at last May’s curated sale. Christie’s went on to sell 87% of the offerings at its Tuesday evening contemporary sale, during which billionaire Yusaku Maezawa snatched up five big-ticket works for a total of $81.3 million—including a Basquiat work that broke the artist’s auction record, selling for $57.3 million. Following a poor showing at Monday’s Impressionist and Modern auction, Sotheby’s recovered on Wednesday with a sale that fetched $242.2 million, far beyond the low estimate of $201.35 million. The house managed to sell 95% of the lots on offer, its highest sell-through rate since 2009. Like Christie’s, however, these results were a drastic decrease from the high points of last year’s sales.
02 New York’s week of spring auctions was also marked by decidedly subdued Impressionist and Modern sales.
On Monday evening, Sotheby’s kicked off the week with an Impressionist and Modern art auction that failed to reach its minimum presale estimate of $164.8 million. Compared to equivalent auctions in recent years, the house’s $144.5 million in total sales marked its worst showing since the 2009 recession. Along with a low sell-through rate of 66%, these results sparked despairing predictions about the state of the art market. Christie’s Impressionist and Modern sale on Wednesday evening, however, assuaged these fears somewhat. Clocking in at $141.5 million (above the low estimate of $134 million), 86% of the 51 lots on offer found a buyer. With collectors seemingly more reticent to test the market during an uncertain time and auction houses cutting back on guarantees (Christie’s only guaranteed one piece, a
, at its sale this week), there was a distinct lack of mega-lots between the two auctions. Coupled with more successful post-war and contemporary sales this week, some have wondered if these results offer commentary on the performance of particular segments of the market rather than the sector as a whole. “Contemporary is now the market barometer,” art adviser Todd Levin told the New York Times
03 The shortlist for the 2016 Turner Prize has been announced.
are this year’s nominees for Britain’s most prestigious art award. Tate Britain, which administers the prize awarded to a UK artist younger than 50 in recognition of a show mounted in the past year, will host all four nominees in an exhibition slated to begin September 27th. The winner, who will receive $38,500, will be announced in December; the other shortlisted artists will each receive $7,700. Hamilton has been nominated for “Lichen! Libido! Chastity!” at New York’s SculptureCenter
; Dean for two exhibitions, in London ( “Sic Glyphs” at South London Gallery) and Amsterdam (“Qualities of Violence” at de Appel arts center); Marten for “Lunar Nibs” at the 56th Venice Biennale and “Eucalyptus Let Us In” at New York’s Greene Naftali
d Pryde for “lapses in Thinking By the person i Am” at CCA Wattis
in San Francisco.
04 Online auction houses Auctionata and Paddle8 announced on Thursday that they would merge, a major consolidation in the rapidly expanding online art market.
Rumors of the pending merger had been circulating the art world for months. However, details of the arrangement with regard to financials—and what the newly formed entity will be called—remain sparse. Reportedly, the two companies have yet to decide whether they will set up their home base in New York (Paddle8’s hometown and the center of the global art market) or Berlin (Auctionata’s hometown, known more for its wealth of artists than wealthy collectors). Auctionata founder and CEO Alexander Zacke will helm the joint firm, with Alexander Gilkes serving as chairman and chief innovation officer. Gilkes’s Paddle8 co-founders Osman Khan and Aditya Julka will also remain on the executive team. According to the announcement, the newly-formed auction house will be among the top 10 globally, outside of mainland China, and will focus on the middle market—objects and artworks under $500k. Consumer preference for online auctions over marketplace models that offer a buy-now option has waned in the past year, according to a recent Hiscox report
. But these auction houses are banking on a merger that allows them to pool their complementary strengths: Paddle8’s particularly strong brand and emphasis on contemporary art, in contrast to the more collectibles-focused Auctionata.
05 The New Museum announced that it will double its exhibition space by expanding into a next-door building after raising $43 million.