Sotheby’s new hybrid format sale: $360 M.

by | Jun 30, 2020

An innovative sale format conducted simultaneously in London, New York, and Hong Kong.

Results exceeded expectations with 93.2% of the 69 lots acquired reaching $363 million.

Photos: Courtesy Sotheby’s

An exceptional event for an exceptional period.

In the art world, the confinement with its galleries, museums, and art fairs obliged to remain closed for more than 2 months left their managers no choice but to develop their online presence through viewing rooms, conferences, and discussion panels on Zoom or Skype. 

Auction houses, already present on the Net, have moved to a higher level, such as Sotheby’s, which organized an exceptional sale on 30 June, bringing together modern art (Leonora Carrington, Wilfredo Lam,) postwar and contemporary art (Francis Bacon, Joan Mitchell, Jean-Michel Basquiat) in a single evening and conducting its sales simultaneously in London, New York, and Hong Kong in a room with no public of bidders who were allowed to place their bids over the phone or online.

Results exceeded expectations with 93.2% of the 69 lots acquired reaching $363 million.

Among the records:  “Garden Party”, oil on canvas (1961-62) by Joan Mitchell, and a work on paper from the “Head” series (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat reached $7.9 million and $15.2 million. The latter being estimated between $9 and $12 million. For information, Head was acquired for $388,500 in 2000 from Phillips New York. 

Joan Mitchell, Garden Party, oil on canvas, 1961-62  
Est. 2 500 000 – 3 500 000 US$ – Sold for 5 250 000 US$. 

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Head), oilstick, ink & acrylic on paper, 1982
Est. 9.000.000 – 12.000.000 USD – Sold 15.184.900 USD. 

But the highlight of the evening was the battle between a client represented by the head of the contemporary art department  Grégoire Billaut and a Chinese collector for Francis Bacon’s “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus” (1981). Estimated at $80 million, it was consigned by Norwegian billionaire Hans Rasmus Astrup to finance his foundation. The work fetched 84.9 million $ premium included; far from the record of “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” acquired in 2013 for $142 million.  

Francis Bacon, Triptych inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, oil on canvas, 1961-62
Est. 60 000 000 – 80 000 000 US$ – Sold for 84 550 000 US$.

Female artists have also been successful. Along with Joan Mitchell (mentioned above), a painting of Agnes Martin reached $5.2 million and a canvas of Vija Celmins ($6.6m) with the 1995 work “Night Sky #7”.

Regarding Impressionism and modern sales went well: Pablo Picasso, “Tête de Femme Endormie” from 1934 sold for $11.2 million over the phone?  The Cuban master Wifredo Lam’s Omi Obini from 1943 fetched $9.6 million breaking previous record of $5.2 million (Sotheby’s Paris 2017).

Agnes Martin - Mountain

Agnès Martin, Garden Party, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 1961-62
Est. 2 000 000 – 3 000 000 US$ – Sold for 5 218 650 US$.