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Sotheby’s – Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

June 30, 2021
an abstract work


A great deal has changed over the past 16 months.  In the old days, an evening sale took place in the evening – usually starting between 6 and 7 pm.  Today, an ‘evening sale’ happens whenever they want – this one began about 3 pm London time (or 10 am New York time), right after the British Art Evening sale (that one started at 2 pm London time).

two figures


Taking the top spot in this sale was Kandinsky’s Tensions calmées that was last on the market in 1964, when it was part of a sale that featured 50 paintings by the artist from the Guggenheim Foundation; the combined total for the 50 works was $1.5M.  Now, this single painting was expected to bring far more than the entire 1964 sale – £18-25M – and it hammered for £18.3M/$25.35M (£21.22M/$29.4M w/p).  I’m sure that family was thrilled! Coming in second was Picasso’s Homme et femme au bouquet. This late example, from 1970, carried an £8-12M estimate and sold for £8.3M/$11.5M (£9.4M/$13M w/p).  Cy Twombly’s Untitled (I love the creative titles), hammered down at £6.6M/$9.14M (£7.8M/$10.7M w/p – est. £5-7M). This same work sold in 2014 for $7.5M, so there was a bit of a profit.

an abstract work


Rounding out the top five were two Andy Warhols. Front and Back Dollar Bills made £5.75M/$8M (£6.8M/$9.4M – the work had an estimate of £6-8M, so it needed the buyer’s premium to make it); while 9 Gold Marilyns hammered at £5.5M/$7.6M (£6.5M/$9M) on a £5.5-8M estimate. This same work last sold in 2013 for $9.1M … so the seller was not a happy camper.

While there were no serious fireworks in the sale, a few pieces did pretty well.  Among the better performers were Jadé Fadojutimi’s I’m pirouetting the night away. The painting, created in 2019 by an artist I never heard of, carried an £80-120K estimate and sold for £320K/$443K (£402K/$557K – w/p). Salman Toor’s Untitled, painted in 2017, was expected to bring £100-150K, and brought £250K/$346K (£315K/$436K – w/p). And Odilon Redon’s small pastel, Profil bleu, hammered at £1.15M/$1.59M (£1.4M/$1.95M) on a £600-800K estimate.

There were several underperforming works and a few that failed to find buyers; these included works by Mutu, Dubuffet, Oehlen, Bonnard, and Schutz.

By the end of their “evening” session (well before lunchtime in New York), of the 57 works that were finally offered (a few, about 8, seemed to disappear before the sale started), 53 sold.  This gave them a sell-through rate of 93%, and the total take was £90.8M/$126M (£108M/$150M – w/p).  The presale estimate range was £95.3-125M, so they were a few million pounds short without the buyer’s premium.

Of the 53 sold works, 15 were below, 24 within, and 14 above their estimate range, giving them an accuracy rate of 45.3% — a respectable number.