Art Market

Sotheby’s first-ever online-only day sale of contemporary art brought in a record $13.7 million.

Justin Kamp
May 18, 2020 4:26PM, via Sotheby’s

Richard Estes, Broadway and 64th, 1984. Sold for $860,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

The first-ever online edition of Sotheby’s contemporary art day sale, which concluded on Thursday, achieved a total of $13.7 million, more than doubling the firm’s previous online auction record of £5 million ($6.4 million), set less than a month ago.

The sale saw 117 lots go to the auction block and achieved a 96 percent sell-through rate, according to Art Market Monitor. The auction pushed Sotheby’s global online sales total for the year thus far past the $100-million mark, a sum nearly five times more than the total for the same period in 2019. Bidders participating in the sale hailed from 35 different countries, and 29 percent of the buyers were acquiring via Sotheby’s for the first time.

Top lots:

  • The sale was led by Christopher Wool’s monochrome pattern painting Untitled (1988), which sold for $1.2 million. The work is marked by Wool’s use of wallpaper rollers, which the artist employed as part of his move away from his earlier Abstract Expressionist works.

Brice Marden, Window Study No. 4, 1985. Sold for $1.1 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

  • Brice Marden’s warm-toned abstract painting Window Study No. 4 (1985) surpassed its high estimate of $900,000 to sell for $1.1 million after garnering 8 bids.
  • Richard Estes’s photorealist painting Broadway and 64th (1984) more than doubled its high estimate of $400,000, achieving a final sale price of $860,000.
  • Yoshitomo Nara’s Witching (1999), featuring one of the artist’s signature subjects, a young girl, sold for $740,000.

Yoshitomo Nara, Witching, 1999. Sold for $740,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

The sale saw the auction debuts of the late contemporary artist Matthew Wong, whose 2018 canvas Untitled more than quadrupled its high estimate of $15,000 and sold for $62,500, as well as Kengo Takahashi, whose cast aluminum sculpture Flower Funeral Deer (2018) surpassed its high estimate of $80,000 to sell for $100,000.

Max Moore, co-head of Sotheby’s Day Auctions of Contemporary Art in New York, said in a statement:

The results from Thursday’s sale are a bellwether of the strength of the market right now and the growing possibilities of online sales. We saw active bidding not only at the top end of the market, but also for younger, up-and-coming artists. [...] The sale was a clear signal that there is still a healthy appetite for quality works on the market, and that consignors trust not only the online format but the market in general right now.
Justin Kamp