On Tuesday, June 28th, Christie’s London hosted their 20th/21st Century evening sale. Though most of the lots were post-war and contemporary artists like Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Henry Moore, the top lots of this sale, interestingly enough, were taken by impressionist pieces. Two paintings by Claude Monet each brought in £26M / $31.77M (or £30.1M / $36.73M w/p). The first, a blue and yellow-accented oil painting of London’s Waterloo Bridge, had been in the private collection of the American watchmaker Arde Bulova and his heirs since 1951. Back then, Bulova bought the Monet from the New York art dealer Knoedler & Co. for $4,000. While that would be around $45,000 today, it only shows how much the value of Monet’s works has skyrocketed over the last century. While not as drastic of a value increase, the other Monet, Nymphéas, temps gris, was part of the Onassis family collection which last sold in 2006 at Christie’s New York for $11.2M w/p.
But while the impressionist pieces took the top spots, the more modern works also had their moments. Yves Klein’s 1960 work Anthropométrie de l’époque bleue, which was used as the thumbnail photo for the sale’s online material, reached nearly as much as the Monets. What brought people in, I believe, was not only Klein’s reputation or the size of the work (about five feet by ten feet) but the medium. Klein spread resin onto paper and then brushed the adhesive with dry pigment, or paint without any liquids added, so it’s still in its powdered state. While the work fell just a few hundred thousand pounds short of its original estimate, it still brought in £23.5M / $28.7M (or £27.2M / $33.23M w/p).
While it wasn’t one of the top lots, one of the more noteworthy pieces sold on Tuesday was Balloon Monkey (Magenta) by Jeff Koons. I wrote about the large stainless steel sculpture earlier this month: its now-previous owner, Victor Pinchuk, announced his intentions to give all proceeds towards medical supplies for those affected by the war in Ukraine. Though I predicted Pinchuk’s announcement would greatly increase interest in the work, the sculpture sold within its £6M to £10M estimate, with the hammer coming down at £8.6M / $10.5M (or £10.14M / $12.39M w/p). It’s still a substantial amount and will no doubt prove helpful in relieving the thousands of Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion.
In total, Christie’s did very well that day. Of the sixty-one available lots, twenty-seven of them (44%) sold within their estimates. An additional fourteen (23%) exceeded expectations, while only six failed to sell. All in all, the entire sale made £153M (or $186.9M).