Monet and Twombly lead the 20th/21st Century sales in New York, surpassing $864,049,952

Christie’s marquee week shatters records for Diebenkorn, Gorky, Mitchell, Botero and more

Christie’s 20th/21st Century sale week commenced with the 21st Century Evening Sale on 7 November in New York. Anchored by monumental works by Twombly, Basquiat and Marden, the auction totalled $107,451,800, selling 95 per cent by lot and 95 per cent hammer against the low estimate. The sale spotlighted exciting voices from around the globe, such as Jia Aili, Nicolas Party, Jadé Fadojutimi, Derek Fordjour and Ilana Savdie.

The 20th Century Evening Sale followed on 9 November. The sale marked Jussi Pylkkänen's penultimate appearance at the rostrum after 38 years of dedicated service as Christie’s Global President. The auction totalled $640,846,000 and sold 97 per cent by lot and 105 per cent hammer against the low estimate. It represented important collections including Ivan & Genevieve Reitman: A Life in Pictures, The Collection of Jerry Moss, Heirs of Fritz Grünbaum and Museum Langmatt.

Claude Monet (1840-1926), Le bassin aux nymphéas, c. 1917-1919. Oil on canvas. 39⅜ x 78⅞ in (100.1 x 200.6 cm). Sold for $74,010,000 in 20th Century Evening Sale on 9 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

After the sale, Pylkkänen reflected, ‘It’s really become a global market, which I never imagined would be the case when I stood in the sale room in 1987, and we sold the [Van Gogh] Sunflowers to a Japanese buyer. The Western world sort of shook...We work in a very different environment now. It’s a wonderful, multicultural environment.’ Pylkkänen will make his final appearance at the rostrum on 7 December for the Old Masters Evening Sale in London.

Christie’s marquee week continued to gather momentum with the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on Friday 10 November. It totalled $66,582,610. This was followed by Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper Sale and the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale on Saturday 11 November. Overall, the two sales achieved $45,952,762. The sales concluded on Monday 13 November with the Picasso Ceramics Sale, which achieved a total of $3,206,700 and brought the weekly total to $864,049,952. Adding to the week’s total, 16 auction records were sent and over 2.5 million people tuned in to live stream the sales.

21st Century Evening Sale

On 7 November, the 21st Century Evening Sale sold 95 per cent by lot and 95 per cent hammer against the low estimate. With auctioneer Georgina Hilton at the rostrum, the sale achieved a total of $107,451,800. Led by a late Twombly masterpiece, the sale also set four new artist records.

Stefanie Heinze (b. 1987), Third Date, 2020. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 78¾ x 51⅛ in (200 x 130 cm). Sold for $239,400 in 21st Century Evening Sale on 7 November 2023 at Christie's New York

‘We sold 15 works by artists of colour and had bids from around the world. This sale was a true reflection of the diverse and global 21st-century art market,’ said Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s.

The night commenced with Third Date by Berlin-based painter Stephanie Heinze, which realised $239,400, nearly four times the low estimate. The sprawling work, painted in 2020, blurs the line between abstraction and figuration.

The top lot of the sale was Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Bacchus 1st Version II), which achieved $19,960,000. Painted in 2004 as part of Twombly’s late Bacchus cycle, the work represents the culmination of the artist’s more than 40-year output. The monumental composition features dramatic vermillion loops and swirls on an ivory ground spanning more than eight feet in height.

Cy Twombly (1928–2011), Untitled (Bacchus 1st Version II), 2004. Acrylic, oilstick and crayon on wood panel, in artist's wood frame. 104⅝ x 79 in (265.6 x 200.1 cm). Sold for $19,960,000 in 21st Century Evening Sale on 7 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

Another monumental canvas, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled from 1981, fetched the second highest price of the evening at $11,910,000. Stretching nearly ten feet and made when Basquiat was just 20 years old, the painting displays all the energy, excitement, and ingenuity of a young artist on the verge of art-world superstardom.

Belle's Turquoise by Brice Marden garnered $9,840,000. The canvas marked a high point in the lyrical abstract painter’s 60-year career.

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988), Untitled, 1981. Acrylic and oilstick on canvas. 50 x 119 in (127 x 302.3 cm). Sold for $11,910,000 in 21st Century Evening Sale on 7 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

The sale showcased the breadth of global voices in contemporary art, from established greats to cutting-edge talents. The works, by artists spanning five continents, confront both the personal and the universal, whilst also redefining abstraction and figuration. Many of these diverse artists are currently on view at the art world’s most hallowed institutions.

Henry Taylor’s “Batman” Part Alien sold for $819,000. Taylor is currently the subject of an acclaimed solo exhibition, Henry Taylor: B Side, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The museum also just concluded a solo show of Colombian- and Miami-raised artist Ilana Savdie’s vibrant large-scale paintings. Her work, A High-pitched Complicity, sold for $201,600, establishing a new record for the artist.

Rashid Johnson’s Bruise Painting “Picture Maker” attracted a frenzy of bidding and doubled its low estimate, selling for $1,744,000. A five-minute bidding war ensued for Combustion, a monumental painting by Chinese artist, Jia Aili, which fetched a record price of $4,769,000.

Rhythm & Blues by Ghanaian-American artist, Derek Fordjour, more than doubled its high estimate, selling for $730,800 after six minutes of lively bidding.

Jia Aili (b. 1979), Combustion, 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 85 x 65¼ in (216 x 165.6 cm); overall: 85 x 195¾ in (216 x 497.2 cm). Sold for $4,769,000 in 21st Century Evening Sale on 7 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

Jenna Gribbon, Jia Aili, Jadé Fadojutimi, Ilana Savdie each set artist records, while François-Xavier Lalanne’s Mouton de Laine sold for $1,502,000 — the highest total for a single Lalanne Mouton. Loge by Reggie Burrows Hodges met the artist’s record price at $730,800.

20th Century Evening Sale

On 9 November Christie’s marquee week continued with the 20th Century Evening Sale. Led by auctioneers Jussi Pylkkänen and Adrien Meyer, the sale realised $640,846,00 and sold 97 per cent by lot and 105 per cent hammer against the low estimate.

The evening began with Egon Schiele’s Selbstbildnis, which fetched $2,833,000. The watercolour is one of a grouping important works on paper by Schiele recently restituted to the family of their rightful owner, the Viennese cabaret and film star Fritz Grünbaum. Two additional works — Ich liebe Gegensätze and Stehende Frau (Dirne) — achieved $10,990,000 and $2,712,000 respectively. Three more works from the series were offered in the Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper Day sale on 11 November, and they sold for $3,236,000 in total.

Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Selbstbildnis, 1910. Watercolour and black crayon on paper. 17¼ x 12 in (43.7 x 30.4 cm). Sold for $2,883,000 in 20th Century Evening Sale on 9 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

The sale’s top lot was Monet’s Le bassin aux nymphéas, which sold for $74,010,000. Painted circa 1917–1919, the work is an important example of Monet’s famed series on his extensive gardens at Giverny. Stretching over two metres across, the painting showcases the unique atmosphere of the artist’s beloved country home. Pylkkänen’s final lot of the evening, he received a standing ovation after bringing down his hammer for the $74-million Monet.

The second highest price of the night was for Francis Bacon’s Figure in Movement, which achieved $52,160,000. The painting, completed in 1976, sits within the canon of masterworks that followed the 1971 death of Bacon’s beloved George Dyer. Featuring a mass of figures at the centre of a ring, Bacon uses his full catalogue of pictorial devices to meditate on love, loss and the transience of the human condition.

Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Figure in Movement, 1976. Oil and dye transfer lettering on canvas. 78¼ x 58 in (198.9 x 147.3 cm). Sold for $52,160,000 in 20th Century Evening Sale on 9 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

Nine works realised prices in excess of $25 million, including major paintings by Diebenkorn, Rothko, Picasso, Cezanne, Magritte, Mitchell and Warhol, in addition to the Monet and the Bacon.

Richard Diebenkorn’s Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad shattered the artist’s previous auction record, realising $46,410,000 after five minutes of competitive bidding. The 1965 painting was completed after a life-changing trip to the Soviet Union in which he saw a trove of Henri Matisse’s work in person. It celebrates the artist’s admiration of Matisse while paving the way for his acclaimed Ocean Park series.

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993), Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad, 1965. Oil on canvas. 71⅜ x 83⅛ (181.3 x 211.1 cm). Sold for $46,410,000 in 20th Century Evening Sale on 9 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

Arshile Gorky’s Charred Beloved I also set an artist record, achieving $23,410,000. The 1946 painting comes from the collection of David Geffen and memorialises the tragic fire that destroyed Gorky’s studio, including some 20 paintings. In response to the devastating incident, Gorky began his Ballroom series, a set of four canvases meditating on the fire, of which Charred Beloved I is part.

Arshile Gorky (1904-1948), Charred Beloved I, 1946. Oil on canvas. 53½ x 39¾ in (135.9 x 101 cm). Sold for $23,410,000 in 20th Century Evening Sale on 9 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

The sale also saw an artist record for Joan Mitchell’s Abstract Expressionist Untitled, which realised $29,160,000. The circa 1959 painting’s seven-foot maelstrom of colour and sweeping brushstrokes boasts all the hallmarks of Mitchell’s most celebrated paintings, making it a true masterpiece from the pivotal decade of her career.

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992), Untitled, c. 1959. Oil on canvas. 97½ x 86½ in (247.7 x 219.7 cm). Sold for $29,160,000 in 20th Century Evening Sale on 9 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

The evening was anchored by two standout collections from legends of the entertainment industry, Ivan & Genevieve Reitman: A Life in Pictures and The Collection of Jerry Moss.

‘We love to tell the stories of collections, and this season we had the pleasure of bringing two very special collections to market that really embodied creativity and artistry in all forms: the collection of the iconic filmmaker, Ivan Reitman, and the collection of the music legend, Jerry Moss,’ said Johanna Flaum, Christie’s Vice Chairman, 20th/21st Century Art, Americas, after the auction.

The iconic director and producer Ivan Reitman’s distinguished collection crossed genres and movements and brought together works by titans of abstraction including Willem de Kooning, Agnes Martin and Mark Rothko. The top lot was Pablo Picasso’s extraordinary 1934 portrait of famous muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, which achieved $42,960,000 against a low estimate of $25,000,000. An artist record was set by Joan Snyder’s The Stripper, which achieved $478,800 against a low estimate of $80,000. A triumph of Snyder’s Stroke Paintings series, the work utilises strips of vibrantly painted canvas to create horizon lines. The collection achieved a total of $74,291,700.

Pablo Picasso, Femme endormie, 1934. Oil on canvas. 28½ x 21¼ in (72.4 x 54 cm). Sold for $42,960,000 in 20th Century Evening Sale on 9 November 2023 at Christie’s in New York

The co-founder of A&M Records, Moss compiled a collection that reflects the depth and breadth of 20th century art with works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Thomas Hart Benton and Pablo Picasso.

One standout example was Tamara de Lempicka’s Fillette en rose, which commanded $14,785,000. An intimate portrait of the artist’s daughter, Fillette en rose is an iconic representation of Lempicka’s inimitable style: characteristically hard-edged, dynamic, sleek, stylised, glamorous and with a high level of finish.

Three important Cezannes were offered by Museum Langmatt in Baden, Switzerland. The grouping was led by Fruits et pot de gingembre, which achieved $38,935,000. Painted in the 1890s, the work showcases the artist’s mastery of the still-life genre. Previously owned by the Jewish art dealer Jacob Goldschmidt, the painting was offered pursuant to a restitution settlement agreement between the Langmatt Foundation and the Heirs of Jacob Goldschmidt. This lot was followed by Cezanne’s Quatre pommes et un couteau and La mer à l'Estaque, selling for a respective $10,415,000 and $3,196,000. Proceeds from the three works will benefit the museum.

A total of six artist records were achieved for Barbara Hepworth, Fernando Botero, Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Mitchell, Arshile Gorky and Joan Snyder. Jean Dubuffet’s Arbre biplan (Version 1) also set a sculpture record for the artist, selling for $3,317,000. Towering above the viewer at 15 feet, the monumental sculpture is the pinnacle of Dubuffet’s ability to merge sculpture and painting in revolutionary ways.

20th/21st Century Day Sales

On Friday 10 November, Christie’s Marquee week continued with the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale. It totalled $66,582,610, selling 86 per cent by lot and achieving 102 per cent hammer against the low estimate.

The top lot was Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species, which surpassed its high estimate and sold for $3,438,000. This was followed by Jean Michel Basquiat’s Untitled, which achieved $3,075,000, and Hans Hofmann’s First Blaze of the Rising Sun, which made $3,075,000, three times its low estimate. Fernando Botero’s Parrot also did exceptionally well, selling for $1,865,000, more than nine times its low estimate of $200,000.

A record was set for Robert Indiana, with LOVE (Red Faces Violet Sides) setting the highest price for the sculpture in the 36x36x18 inch scale at $957,600. Artist records were also set for Jason Rhoades, Gary Simmons and Geoffrey Williams.

The Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale was followed by the Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper Sale and the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale on Saturday 11 November. Overall, the two sales achieved $45,952,762.

The Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper Sale brought a total of $10,670,504, selling 79 per cent by lot and hammering 96 per cent against its low estimate. It was led by a work by Egon Schiele from the Collection of the Viennese Cabaret and Film Star Fritz Grünbaum titled Knabenbildnis (Herbert Reiner) (recto); Zwei weibliche Akte mit Draperie (verso). The work sold for $2,228,000 — more than four times its low estimate.

The afternoon’s Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale had a grand total of $35,292,338, selling 83 per cent by lot and hammering 102 per cent against its low estimate. It was led by Les bords de la Seine près de Vétheuil by Claude Monet from the Estate of Sylvia Paine Constable, which sold for $3,438,000, more than double its low estimate. This was followed by a painting from the Collection of Anne Eisenhower, Nature morte, compotier avec fruits, pot avec fleurs, which achieved $2,833,000 against a low estimate of $800,000.

The sale series concluded on Monday 13 November with the Picasso Ceramics Sale. Selling 100 per cent by lot and hammering 327 per cent against its low estimate, it achieved a total of $3,206,700 and brought the weekly total to $864,049,952.

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