Art Market

Works by Barkley L. Hendricks and Betye Saar led a record-breaking day sale at Sotheby’s.

Justin Kamp
Nov 23, 2020 9:04PM, via Sotheby's

Betye Saar, ABCD Education (2001). Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s day sales of contemporary and Impressionist & modern art achieved $79.4 million across three live and online auctions last week, marking the highest total for an online sale at the firm. The auctions saw more than 300 works go under the hammer, with 25 pieces achieving prices over $1 million and six new auction records set.

The sale was led by Barkley L. Hendricks, whose 1975 portrait Jackie Sha-la-la (Jackie Cameron) sold for $2.8 million, marking the late artist’s second highest price at auction. A portion of proceeds from the sale will benefit collector David Ummels’s Art for Guernsey initiative, focusing specifically on an exhibition of works inspired by Black Lives Matter as well as an Artist in Residence program. Helen Frankenthaler’s massive Giant Step (1975) also soared past its high estimate of $1.8 million to sell for $2.4 million, a continuation of female Abstract Expressionist’s market ascendancy. Fernando Botero’s Leda and the Swan (1996) rounded out the top three results, selling for $2.4 million, double the low estimate of $1.2 million.

The sales also saw a number of new auction records set. Betye Saar’s multimedia assemblage ABCD Education (2001) more than doubled its high estimate of $30,000 to sell for $81,900, nabbing the artist’s top auction result. Another of Saar’s collaged multimedia works, Honey (2001), followed immediately, selling for $44,100 and securing her second highest price ever achieved at auction. The French symbolist Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer’s ethereal nature scene Paysage montagneux (1912) was the subject of an intense six-way bidding competition that saw the painting push past its high estimate of $250,000 to ultimately sell for $2 million, a price more than four times higher than the artist’s previous auction record.

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

We are extremely pleased with the results of this week’s sales. Strong results continued for artists rising in the market, such as Barkley L. Hendricks, Matthew Wong, Titus Kaphar, and Jonas Wood, among others. It was also exciting to see works by the renowned Betye Saar, which rarely appear at auction, set new benchmarks at auction, far surpassing their high estimates. The Day Sale continues to be the premier platform for collectors to discover the most sought after artists of their time.

According to Artsy data, interest in works by Saar has increased dramatically in the last two years. Inquiries on her works on the platform more than tripled between 2018 and 2019, when she was the subject of a solo exhibition at the newly-reopened Museum of Modern Art. In 2020, amid a traveling show that started at LACMA in the fall of 2019 and is now on view at the Morgan Library and Museum, inquiries on her work are on track to exceed last year’s numbers.

Justin Kamp
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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