Abstract Art Top Sales Results, Third Quarter 2015
Oct 29, 2015
A quarterly snapshot of the top abstract art auctions results: Following record-breaking sales in the first and second quarters of 2015, the third quarter of the year was habitually calmer for auction sales. Nevertheless, there were some impressive results within the domain of abstract art, specifically within public sales.
The quarter got off to an excellent start with an early sale of ceramics by Pablo Picasso in Sotheby’s London Impressionist and Modern day sale on 25June. The collection – previously belonging to the artist’s granddaughter, Marina Picasso – totalled $19.4 million, exceeding the high-end estimate and demonstrating a positive result of 100% of lots sold. The works are thought to have been created between 1946 and the late 1960s, and are all one-off pieces. Cabri, a vase, sold for four times its lowest estimate, achieving $761,159, serving as further proof of a rising interest in the artist’s late works.
On 1 July, Sotheby’s London hosted a Contemporary Art evening auction, presenting works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana and, crucially, Gerhard Richter, whose work A B Brick tower (1987), sold for £14,149,000 ($22,218,175), estimated at between £12 million and £16 million. The work comes from the corpus of 14 abstract works, entitled London Paintings, which the artist produced in response to his experience of the city. Additionally, these works mark a turning point in Richter’s career as they were created for exhibition in the Anthony D’Offay Gallery, his first major commercial exhibition in London. The sale follows the record-breaking auction of Richter’s work, Abstraktes Bild, at Sotheby’s London Titans of Contemporary Art sale on 10 February 2015, during which the work sold for £30,389,000 ($46,303,719), setting the record for the highest price achieved at auction by a living artist.
Mid-season sales have also proved to be worthwhile experiments as Christie’s can attest to. The auction house hosted two First Open sales on 22 July and 30 September in New York. The sales, aimed at new and younger collectors, displayed a variety of lots, including works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lucio Fontana, Alexander Calder and Yayoi Kusama. A work by abstract expressionist painter Milton Resnick, Seal (1960), was revealed as the highest-achieving lot at the July sale, selling for $173,000, exceeding the high estimate figure of $60,000. A spin painting by Damien Hirst topped the best-sellers at the September auction. The work Beautiful, Exotic, Erotic, Divinely, Deep, Devil, Painting (1995) sold for $509,000, likewise exceeding the high estimate of $350,000. An abstract work by Theodoros Stamos achieved the second highest result: Listening Hills Low Sun (1957-58) sold for $341,000, surpassing the high estimate of $150,000. With a further sale of an abstract work by Michael Goldberg, Dune House (1958), coming in as the third highest amount, the sale marked an excellent result for abstract works.
Amongst the highest auction results in September 2015 was a work by Korean abstract artist Kim Whan-ki (1913-1974), entitled Mountain (1961). The painting sold at K Auction in Seoul for 16,000,000 KRW ($14,400 USD) on 16 September. The final quarter of 2015 has got off to a positive start as Yayoi Kusama’s work, NO. RED B (1960) sold for $7 million (HK $54.5 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, making it the leading lot from the Modern and Contemporary Asian Art sale. The work exceeded its estimate of $3.9 million to $5.1 million (HK $30–40 million).
Auction houses across the board are gearing up for an exciting autumn within the realm of abstract art sales. On 11 November, Sotheby’s New York is to offer a Cy Twombly Blackboard painting (1968), estimated at around $60 million, at its evening contemporary sale. The work, and the series to which is belongs, is considered to be rare and demonstrative of a change in direction for Twombly who, in 1966, moved away from his Baroque style of painting towards more abstract forms. The sale is in aid of The Audrey Irmas Foundation for Social Justice and will benefit the construction of a new building for the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, designed by Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture.
Featured image: Photo credit Sotheby's