Immediately following the Ginny Williams collection, Sotheby’s offered up 30 lots of Contemporary work, though it was a far cry from the usual slate of works featured in an evening sale… the high end of the sale estimate was $239M – just for a frame of reference, last year Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening sale totaled $341M and Christie’s totaled more than half a billion.
The top lot of the session was none other than Francis Bacon, who has become a staple in evening sales… no other lot came close. Expected to sell for $60-80M, the sizable triptych which has been privately held for more than 30 years, found a buyer at $74M ($84.5M w/p). A work by Clyfford Still titled PH-144(1947-Y-NO.1) took second at the low end of its range… $25M on a $25-35M estimate ($28.7M w/p). Rounding out the top three was Roy Lichtenstein’s White Brushstroke 1, which was guaranteed going into the sale… it found a buyer at $23.5M ($25.4M w/p) on a $20-30M estimate. Surprisingly, this work last sold at Christie’s in 1993 and went below estimate (even with the premium). At that time, the estimate was only $750-950K! This time around, the seller was certainly happy with the results given they acquired the work for just $728K – a roughly 3,100% return.
Only one lot provided a truly surprising result… the first lot up – Matthew Wong’s The Realm of Appearances saw some spirited bidding as it climbed to $1.5M ($1.8M w/p) though it was estimated at just $60-80K… if anyone can explain that, I’m all ears.
There were five work that sold below estimate, along with one failure… the most significant were works by Diebenkorn ($7.7M on $9-12M est.) and Henry Moore ($2.95M on $4-6M est.), as well as the Basquiat which sputtered out at $1.3M on a $1.5-2M estimate, leaving it unsold.
Half of the lots (15 of 30) were sold within their estimate range, along with another 9 that topped their estimate, so 80% saw good results… and with just one unsold, that works out to 97% sold – a solid showing given the circumstances. The 29 sold lots totaled $203M ($234.9M w/p) and they were expecting between $171-239; not too far off the high end, but well off last year’s levels.