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Works by Willem de Kooning, Paul Gauguin, and Hans Hofmann all failed to sell, while female painters and artists of colour set new records.

High Profile Works Go Unsold at Christie’s New York Sales

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sugar Ray Robinson (1982). Acrylic and oil stick on canvas. 152.1 x 122.6 cm. Courtesy Christie's.

Christie's announced over US $2 billion in sales during eight days at their New York sales. While records were set for some, several high profile works fell short of expectation.

Christie's sales kicked off with the US $1.6 billion sale of Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen's Collection From 9 to 10 November. Five works sold above $100 million and 24 new artist records were set, including records for Vincent van Gogh and Jan Brueghel the Younger.

The remainder of the $2 billion figure came from Christie's 20th and 21st Century Evening and Day sales, Impressionist And Modern Art Day And Works On Paper sales, and Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sales.

Jean-Michel Basquiat's mighty, fiery Sugar Ray Robinson took the top lot at Christie's 20th and 21st Century Evening Sales on 16 November. Although fetching $32 million (including fees), the work failed to meet its estimate of $35 million.

While no runaway, Jeff Koons' headlining Bourbon-filled Train did fetch a price within the estimate on the night—close to $17 million.

By contrast, Willem de Kooning's late-1970s colourful abstraction Untitled III, guaranteed by the auction house, failed to garner any bid over the $35 million asking price. At Sotheby's Contemporary Evening Auction on the same night, de Kooning's Untitled (1979) did sell, for over $34 million.

Rashid Johnson, Surrender Painting Sunshine (2022).

Rashid Johnson, Surrender Painting Sunshine (2022). Courtesy Christie's.

Works by Paul Gauguin and Hans Hofmann, both guaranteed by the auction house, also failed to sell. Six artworks were withdrawn from the evening sales, including a Clyfford Still.

In a conference following Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Evening, Phillips CEO Stephen Brooks noted, 'some of the froth is going out of the market'. Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti told Artnet News the market has been more difficult in the last six months.

Excluding the Paul G. Allen Collection sale, the combined total of Christie's, Phillips and Sotheby's New York evening auctions reported by The Art Newspaper was down over $92 million from last November.

Anna Weyant, Loose Screw (2020). Oil on canvas. 122.2 x 91.4 cm.

Anna Weyant, Loose Screw (2020). Oil on canvas. 122.2 x 91.4 cm. Courtesy Christie's.

Froth or not, female artists and artists of colour came out on top during the New York auctions.

Joan Mitchell's Conte Bleu (circa 1962) led Christie's Post-war and Contemporary Art Day sale, fetching $3.4 million. A massive canvas by Mitchell and a self-portrait by Frida Kahlo also appeared in the 20th Century evening sale. Anna Weyant's Loose Screw, meanwhile, tripled the high estimate in the 21st Century auction.

Of the eight new artist records set in Christie's 20th and 21st Century evening sales, half were women: French Impressionist Eva Gonzalès; seasoned Native American visual artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith; Nigerian-American Njideka Akunyili Crosby, known for her figurative mixed-media paintings; and Korean painter Minjung Kim.

Over at Sotheby's, new records were set for Barbara Kruger, Betye Saar, Elizabeth Peyton, Jacqueline Humphries, and Carol Bove.

New records were also set at Christy's 21st Century Sale for works by the late painter of ordinary African American lives Noah Davis, and 'post-black' conceptual artist Rashid Johnson. Johnson's Surrender Painting Sunshine (2022) sold for $3 million, more than triple the estimate. The work was sold to raise funds for Right of Return Fellowship, a programme established by artist-curator Jesse Krimes to support formerly incarcerated artists.

In more disappointing news for the auction house, Christie's pulled Shen the T. rex from the upcoming 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale in Hong Kong, following questions raised regarding the replica bones in the skeleton. —[O]

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