Abstract Art Top Sales Results, Fourth Quarter 2015 - By IdeelArt
Jan 15, 2016
Overall, 2015 was a great year for public art sales. Most of the records that fell did so in the first half of the year. But there were plenty of impressive performances in the fourth quarter of the year nonetheless, especially in terms of beating auction estimates. One major headline in Q4 came via Sotheby's. Remember that last quarter we looked ahead to the sale of Cy Twombly's untitled "Blackboard" painting, dated 1968, which was estimated to fetch $60 Million at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction on November 11th. The work outperformed expectations, breaking Twombly's auction record by bringing in just over $70 Million. This was the most expensive lot of the entire year for Sotheby's.
Other Sotheby's Notables
At that same auction, Rudolf Stingel's Untitled from 1956 (209.5 x 169.4 cm., oil and enamel on canvas) exceeded its pre-auction estimate of $1.2 Million, selling for just over $3.5 Million. A mixed media Mike Kelley piece from 2001 called Memory Ware Flats brought in $3.1 Million. Two works by Frank Stella also crushed pre-auction estimations. Promenade Du Sceptique (342.9 x 342.9 cm., acrylic on canvas) from 1974 sold for $5.4 Million, nearly doubling its $3 Million estimate, and Untitled (30.5 x 30.5 cm., alkyd on canvas) from 1961, which was estimated at $700K, sold for $1.2 Million.
An Undervalued Segment of the Market?
Contemporary abstract work also outperformed auction estimates at Christie's Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale on November 10th at Rockefeller Plaza. Italian abstract artist Mario Schifano's 1960-61 piece, Cleopatra's Dream (129.8 x 120 cm., enamel and paper laid down on canvas) fetched $893K after being estimated at just $200K. This was an all-time best for this artist. Another personal record was set at the same auction for 40-year old artist Joe Bradley. Bradley's 2011 piece Tres Hombres (229.5 x 203.8 cm., oil, crayon, spray paint and fabric collage on canvas) brought in just over $3 Million, doubling its pre-auction estimate.
Another highlight from Christie's Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale was Lucio Fontana's Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio (178.4 x 123.2 cm., oil on shaped canvas) from 1964. This bright yellow, egg-shaped work features signature slashes in the canvas and is considered to be a monumental work by Fontana. After painting the piece, he slashed holes in the canvas while it was still wet then used his hands to claw, poke and strike at the holes. The piece sold for $29,173,000. Richard Pousette-Dart's diptych Blood Wedding (195.6 x 286.4 cm., oil on canvas) sold for a whopping $2.6 Million after being estimated at just $800K. Previous owners of the piece were the famous Kahns, Arthur and Anita, one of New York's most beloved art collecting couples.
Contemporary Female Abstract Artists
Christie's Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale saw exciting sales of work by several contemporary female abstract artists. Agnes Martin's 1967 work Happy Valley (182.8 x 182.8 cm., acrylic, graphite and ink on canvas) realized $6.3 Million. Helen Frankenthaler's Las Mayas (254 x 109.9 cm., oil on canvas) from 1958 fetched $2.4 Million. And an untitled, 2001 diptych (182.8 x 243.8 cm., ink and graphite on canvas) by the 45-year old, Ethiopian-born New York artist Julie Mehretu sold for just under $2.3 Million.
Asian Abstract Art
Several contemporary Asian abstract artists performed better than expected in Q4. At Christie's Convergences: A Special Sale of Singapore Art, held on November 29th, Big River (91 x 73 cm., acrylic on canvas) by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama sold for 15% over estimate, bringing in $269,633. At that same event, two works from Singaporean artist Chen Wen Hsi combined for nearly $1 Million. Sea Palace (80 x 100 cm., oil on canvas), from the early 1970s, sold for $658,526, while Assembling (136 x 69 cm., ink and colour on paper), from the 1980s, sold for $246,299.
At Christie's Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale, also on the 29th, 33-year old Japanese artist Tomoya Tsukamoto's Red Yellow Blue, from 2015, destroyed its auction estimate of $32K, bringing in just over $113K. And the night before, at Christie's Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 3 paintings by the recently deceased French/Chinese abstract artist Zao Wou-Ki brought in $13.5 Million combined.
Looking ahead to 2016, unsure economies in Russia, Central Asia and China could play a role in tempering record-breaking sales, but a slowdown is by no means imminent. Auction sales in contemporary abstract are especially trending toward outperforming estimates. At the upcoming Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on February 10th, Damien Hirst's Nirvana is estimated to bring in $1.8 Million, as is Lucio Fontana's Concetto Spaziale, Attese. At that same sale, Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild has a pre-auction estimate of $1.5 Million.
Featured image: Photo credit Sotheby's