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

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

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

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$.

The continuously blooming Contemporary African Art auction results

The continuously blooming Contemporary African Art auction results

The continuously blooming Contemporary African Art auction results

The global art market is essentially characterized today by geographical regions, countries or continents. In that perspective, African art gaining momentum is reflected in the latest Sotheby’s London art sales of their new 2017 department on modern and contemporary African art. Already showcased worldwide in dedicated art fairs, exhibitions, foundations or museums, the contemporary African art scene is indisputably a hotbed of major talents. The most famous names under the spotlight are El Anatsui, Hassan El Glaoui, Skunder Boghossian, Ibrahim El Salahi, Ablade Glover, and Cheri Samba. With some entering auctions for the first time, they exceeded the price expectations, establishing new auction records for 11 artists. Congolese Cheri Samba’s painting “J’aime la couleur” from 2005 estimated around  £40,000-60,000 resulted in a £93,750 – $122,344 auction selling.

As expected, Ghana with the famous sculptural installation artist El Anatsui ranked at the top,  with the bottle tops tapestry  Zebra Crossing 2sold for about $1.5 million.

The works of the most recent and nonetheless swiftly growing artists like Congolese Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga are sought to become more and more in demand, and the current estimated prices are thus unlikely to remain the same.

Eddy Kamuanga -Illunga Palm

Morocco and Ethiopia’s art heritage are introduced with the paintings of Hassan El Glaoui “La sortie du Roi” and Alexander Skunder Boghossian “Harvest Scrolls”, the countries’ aiming to be the heart of Africa’s art, giving their national artists new platforms.

Nigeria, South Africa as major players already thrive through their own fine art auction houses, and through their artists’ international renown in the past years. (Nigerian artists like J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, Ben Enwonwu, Uzo Egonu were sold at the auctions)

The past sales by Bonhams had shown immense promise, but the London April 2 sales of over 75 lots are a testimony of a stratospheric rise, demonstrating the continuous chain effect for long-time celebrated masters but most importantly for young and booming contemporary artists. While native African collectors represented the majority of the buyers by far, Western collectors as well have shown a surge of interest for the important investment opportunities that the sales’ total of $3 million foreshadows. The interest from wealthy collectors and art institutions like Sotheby’s is influential in assessing once again that the African art market has a positive future and a global audience.

A Basquiat Skull Painting Breaks $100M at Sotheby’s

A Basquiat Skull Painting Breaks $100M at Sotheby’s

The most expensive skull of Basquiat sold to japanese collector Maezawa for $ 110.5 million at Sotheby’s in 2017 on show at Louis Vuitton Foundation

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Untitled, 1982. Acrylic, spray paint, and oilstick on canvas. 183.2 × 173 cm. Yusaku Maezawa Collection, Chiba, Japan © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Picture: Courtesy of Sotheby’s, Inc. © 2018


Thursday 18th May marked an unprecedented record at Sotheby’s New York during the Contemporary sales evening, making of Jean-Michel Basquiat the most coveted American artist with the sale of a skull painting over the $100 million barrier.

Untitled (1982) painting has been acquired for 110.5 million dollars by the billionaire Japanese entrepreneur and art collector Yusaku Maezawa, 41, founder of START TODAY an online fashion mall.This work becomes the second most expensive artwork ever auctioned, after Francis Bacon’sThree Studies of Lucian Freud (triptych, 1969) sold for $142,2  million at Christie’s in 2013.

Fervent to his love for Basquiat, Maezawa’s plan is to exhibit this and other acquired works in his hometown, Chiba, a city nearby the nipone capital. Among his collection, artworks from artists such as Jeff Koons, Alexander Calder, Bruce Nauman, Vincent Van Gogh and Richard Prince will be featured in his private museum.

Even though the museum’s construction is still on hold, Mr. Maezawa seems to know exactly how he envisions his institution as he stated he wants each art piece to breathe and to be thoroughly contemplated by his future audience.

Despite a short period of active creation, only 10 years, Jean-Michel Basquiat  (1960-1988) left a prolific oeuvre behind him. After his death, his artworks have attained staggering prices during auctions and sales placing him alongside great master such as Van Gogh or Pablo Picasso.