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Contemporary & Post-War Art sales, key info….



Christie’s and Sotheby’s will be hosting their evening sales of Contemporary & Post-War Art on 7 and 8 May in New York.

With a combined high-estimate total of nearly $663m, the two houses could well set a new combined sales record

In November 2007, Christie’s and Sotheby’s generated a combined total of $565m from their Contemporary & Post-War evening sales. This year, the two auction firms are expecting at least $474m ($60m more than the high-estimate total in 2007) and their high-estimate total of around $663m means that a new combined record is theoretically possible…
Better still; Christie’s’ high total adds up to $351m, which, if achieved, would be its best-ever Contemporary & Post-War Art sales total. Likewise, Sotheby’s, whose best-ever Contemporary & Post-War Art sales total was $ 225m in November 2007 (against an estimated price range of $221 – $331m) should easily exceed its 2007 score.

Less Warhol… more Richter.

Like Pablo PICASSO at the Impressionist & Modern art sales, Andy WARHOL has been the most sought-after artist in recent Contemporary sales (in May 2011, there were 15 works by Warhol in the 2 catalogues). This year, however, there will be 9 works by the German artist, Gerhard RICHTER, and only six works by Andy Warhol.
With six works sold above $10 million since October 2011, Gerhard Richter has become safe bet for the auction houses who wish to exploit his current popularity and passion and the strong demand for his work (only 20% of his works have failed to sell since October 2011). The combined estimates for Richter’s 9 works at these two days of sales add up to $54m (low) and $74m(high), more than the artist’s entire sales proceeds for the years 2009 and 2010 together.
Another artist well who will be represented at the two evening sales is Hugo NAUMANN, also with 9 works for a total estimate of between $25 and $35m, higher than his average annual sales revenue.

What records might we expect?

In total, the two catalogues contain works by 64 artists. Among them, the two auctioneers are expecting 19 new artists’ records such as that expected for Yves KLEIN. His Untitled Monogold is estimated at $40 million although Klein’s record barely amounts to $21m for MG9 just four years ago.A new record is also expected for Roy LICHTENSTEIN whose work The Sleeping Girl could reach $40m, a little more than the $38.5m that his “I Can See the Whole Room!…and There’s Nobody in it!” fetched last November.Cy TWOMBLY died last year, and the rarity of his works should continue to drive up his prices. Indeed, his two best results were hammered in 2011 (Untitled (1967) fetched $13.5m and Untitled (2006) sold for $8m). His Untitled (New York City) (1970) is being offered on the evening of 9 May at Sotheby’s for between $15m and $20m.
More surprisingly, four works are carrying estimates that are more than double the artist’s current records. Jackson POLLOCK’s Number 28 is estimated at $30m while his best result is just $10.4m. Barnett NEWMAN’s Onement V is estimated at $15m while his best result is currently $4.6m (Untitled (1969)).With nine pieces presented, Hugo NAUMANN is an expected star of these sales and his record ($5.6m for Red Curlicue) could be beaten not once, but twice with the lots Lily Of Force estimated $12m and La Rouge de Sache estimated $6m.

And among these records, which work is going to produce the best hammer price?

Andy WARHOL‘s Double Elvis is estimated at $30 – 50m million at Sotheby’s evening sale on 9 May and should generate the best result of the week, unless it is beaten by Mark ROTHKO’s Orange, Red, Yellow estimated at $35 – 45m; but Rothko has not sold above $35m since 2008. Another work could also create a surprise: Edith Luise Mary KING’s Figure writing reflected in mirror, estimated $30 – $0m although Bacon has not exceeded $40m since 2008.

Substantial capital gains …

If you could go back in time to invest in works being offered at these two evenings, these are the works you should have bought:
Roy LICHTENSTEIN‘s Brushstroke for $10,500 in 1978, now estimated 800,000 – $1.2m, and Sailboats by the same artist for $1.25m in 1998, now offered at $6 – 8m. Then there is Gerhard RICHTER’s Seestuck which sold for $417,000 in 1993 and is today estimated at $10 – 15m. In 1999 you could have invested $400,000 in Jean-Michel BASQUIAT’s Ring which is now expected to generate between $4m and $6m. With the same amount ($400,000) in 1989, you could have bought a Willem DE KOONING (Untitled) which is now also expected to sell in the $4 – 6m price range this week in New York.

What else?

Jeff KOONS and Damien HIRST: two leading names at this type of sale in previous years are represented by just two works, respectively, estimated at a maximum of $1.2m and $1.5m. No new record in sight for those who dominated the Contemporary auction market with multi-million dollar results in the 2006/2008 period.Although China dominates the global Contemporary art market, only one Chinese artist is being offered for sale; not surprisingly it is AI Weiwei, far more popular in the West than in his home country (79% of his sales are generated outside China).As usual, these sales will act a barometer for the coming months, and their success will confirm the good health of the “premium” art market, so far impervious to the world’s economic uncertainties (the price of high-end art – i.e. >$100,000 – has risen 30% since January 2009).

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