01 This week’s post-war and contemporary auctions in New York were stronger than some expected, but still represent a drop in sales year-over-year for Sotheby’s and Christie’s.
Christie’s kicked off the week with a Tuesday evening auction totalling $277.5 million, easily surpassing the low estimate of $216 million but still falling below the high estimate of $296 million. The sell-through rate hit 89%, with ’s Untitled XXV
(1977) beating the artist’s previous auction record with a hammer price of $59 million. Compared to last November’s sale at Christie’s, which netted $331.8 million, this auction represented a 16% decrease in sales by value. Sotheby’s, too, boasted a respectable post-war and contemporary sale on Thursday evening with a $276.6 million sales by the end of the night—a result that fell squarely between the estimates of $206–302 million and represented a slight drop from last November’s total of $295 million. Only 4 of 64 works were unable to find a buyer. ’s A.B., Still
(1986) marked the top lot, selling for $34 million. On Wednesday night, Phillips achieved its highest-ever result for a 20th-century and contemporary art evening sale, with sales totaling $111 million. The auction house also bucked the general downward trend in sales, beating its sale last November by some $44 million.
02 The Impressionist and modern auctions this week also produced respectable results, with a rare Monet haystack selling for a record $81.4 million at Christie’s.
(1891) was estimated to sell for $45 million, and instead went for almost twice that, beating the record of $80.4 million set for the artist in 2008 by his water lily work from 1919, Le Bassin aux Nymphéas
. The work contributed significantly to the evening’s overall results for Christie’s: a sell-through rate of 81% for a total of $246.3 million, well above the sale’s low estimate of $202 million. The result is a 69% jump from last year and the house’s highest total for an Impressionist and modern sale since 2014. Granted, that excludes 2015’s curated “The Artist’s Muse” sale, which brought in almost $500 million; Christie’s opted against a curated sale this season, opting instead for a selling exhibition of high-value works in Hong Kong. At Sotheby’s, the top lot—’s
1902 painting Girls on the Bridge
—went to its third-party guarantor for $54.5 million after failing to attract any additional bidding. The Sotheby’s sale brought in $157.7 million in total, almost $15 million above its low estimate, and achieved an 81% sell through rate. The total is a decrease from last year’s equivalent auction, which fetched $306.7 million and featured five additional lots. Across both the Impressionist and modern and the post-war and contemporary sales, the art market continues to suffer from a lack of supply, due to uncertainty in the macro-economy over the past 18 months. However, with Brexit and the U.S. presidential election now settled, pundits and some auction house executives have suggested an art market rebound is soon to come.
03 New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art announced the artists who will be featured in its 2017 Whitney Biennial.
On March 17, the Whitney
will open its first Whitney Biennial—the preeminent survey of the state of contemporary art in the U.S.—since moving to its Meatpacking District building. Coming after the the show skipped a year so curators could adjust to the museum’s new home, the biennial features a diverse roster of 63 artists and a thematic focus on the role of the individual in turbulent times. The heterogenous group of artists chosen by Whitney associate curator Christopher Y. Lew and independent curator Mia Locks span race, gender, sexual orientation, age, geography, and medium. There are nearly as many women as men; many artists are from outside of the U.S.; the oldest artist,
, was born in 1929 and the youngest, Casey Gollan, in 1991; and there is a strong contingent of artists working in technology. Preparations for the biennial ran parallel to the 2016 U.S. presidential campaigns (something which hasn’t occurred in two decades), all but confirming that the divisive election, and the questions it raised about the nation, will figure prominently. The emerging and established artists included span
, Jessi Reaves,
, among others.
04 The authenticity of a recently discovered sketchbook that allegedly belonged to Vincent van Gogh is being disputed by the Van Gogh Museum.