Basquiat’s Warrior becomes most expensive Western artwork ever sold in Asia at HK$323,600,000 / $41,857,351

Christie’s 20th Century Evening sales top £198 million / $274,000,000; Banksy’s Game Changer realises £16,758,000; world records are set for six artists, including Claire Tabouret, Joy Labinjo and Issy Wood

On 23 March Christie’s three global livestreamed evening sales of 20th-century art realised a combined total of £198,716,619 / $274,825,084 / €230,312,562 / HK$1,655,333,300. A highlight of Christie’s 20th Century spring season, the series saw collectors convene in London via our livestreamed salerooms in Hong Kong and New York.

Auctioneers Jussi Pylkkänen and Arlene Blankers took bids from clients in London as well as Christie’s Hong Kong and New York through phone banks and via Christie’s LIVE online bidding channel.

More than 400,000 people tuned into the live-streamed event through Christie’s website and social media channels, including YouTube, Facebook and WeChat.

The 20th Century Art Evening Sale achieved £150,290,619, selling 96 per cent by lot and 99 per cent by value. Later, The Art of the Surreal realised £48,426,000.

The series, which showcased the biggest names in Impressionist, modern, post-war and contemporary art, opened with Basquiat’s 1982 work, Warrior, in Hong Kong.

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), Warrior, 1982. Acrylic, oilstick and spray paint on wood panel. 72 x 48 in. (183 x 122 cm.). Sold for HK$323,600,000 on 23 March 2021 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The painting, which depicts the eponymous warrior holding in his right hand a sword, raised and ready to strike, is one of the finest created by Basquiat in a year in which, the artist declared, he ‘made the best paintings ever’. It sold for HK$323,600,000 / $41,857,351 to become the most valuable Western artwork ever offered in Asia.

Banksy, Game Changer, 2020. Oil on canvas. 35 7/8 x 35 7/8 in. (91 x 91 cm.). Sold for £16,758,000 on 23 March 2021 at Christie’s in London

The second-highest seller was Banksy’s Game Changer, which soared above its high estimate of £3,500,000 before selling for £16,758,000. Proceeds from the sale of the artwork of more than £16 million will be used to support the wellbeing of University Hospital Southampton staff and patients, as well as benefiting associated health organisations and charities across the UK that enhance the care and treatment provided by the NHS. 

One square metre in size, the hand-painted work shows a young boy in dungarees who has discarded his Batman and Superman toys in favour of a uniformed nurse wearing a mask and cape. The picture’s only splash of colour is the Red Cross symbol emblazoned on her chest. 

Game Changer was installed in Southampton Hospital in the south of England in May 2020 as a gesture of thanks towards staff during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Banksy’s gift to the hospital was always intended to be sold to raise vital funds for the UK’s National Health Service; a reproduction will remain on view for future patients, visitors and staff at the hospital.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse), 1932. Oil on canvas. 16 x 16 in. (40.6 x 40.6 cm.). Sold for £14,582,500 on 23 March 2021 at Christie's in London

Later, Picasso’s Femme nue couchée au collier (Marie-Thérèse) (1932) realised £14, 582,500. One of two portraits by Picasso offered in the sale, it depicts his young lover Marie-Thérèse Walter. ‘It is an intensely private portrait of his love affair with his mistress and his art,’ said Christie’s co-head of the 20th Century Evening Sale, Keith Gill.

Painted 30 years later in 1962, Femme assise dans un fauteuil noir (Jacqueline) achieved £9,659,000. Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline is immediately identifiable by her almond-shaped eyes and dark hair.

Jean Fautrier’ Pièges (Traps) from 1946 more than tripled its high estimate at £4,522,500, setting a new world record for the artist at auction.

Claire Tabouret (b. 1981), The Last Day, 2016. Acrylic on canvas. 90 3/8 x 129 7/8 in. (230 x 330 cm.). Sold for £622,500 on 23 March 2021 at Christie's in London

The sale saw competitive bidding for Amedeo Modigliani’s 1916 Portrait du photographe Dilewski, which fetched £4,402,500; and for a vibrant, dreamlike landscape (2017) by the self-taught artist Matthew Wong, which realised £2,722,500. After a flurry of international bidding, Gerhard Richter’s Ohne Titel (Untitled) sold for £2,242,500, setting an auction record for a work on paper by the artist.

Other notable results included Roy Lichtenstein’s Cup and Saucer IIa rare work from his celebrated series of bronze still-life sculptures, which realised £1,126,500, nearly triple the low estimate. Amoako Boafo’s 2016 Self-Portrait sold for £550,000, nearly seven times the high estimate; while Alighiero Boetti’s Imagining Everything (1976-1977), held in the same private collection for over two decades, cruised past its high estimate of £180,000 before selling for £300,000.

The sale also set new world auction records for a number of rising stars of contemporary art, among them Claire Tabouret, whose The Last Day (2016) soared past its high estimate of £200,000 before realising £622,500. Issy Wood’s Over Armour (non-linear, non-violent) from 2019 more than doubled the low estimate at £250,000; and Joy Labinjo’s No Wahala fetched £150,000, more than triple the high estimate.

Joan Miró (1893-1983), Peinture, 1925. Oil on canvas. 57 1/2 x 45 in. (146 x 114.3 cm.). Sold for £10,231,500 on 23 March 2021 at Christie’s in London

The top price of the The Art of the Surreal was Joan Miró’s Peinture, one of the artist’s breakthrough ‘dream’ paintings from 1925, which achieved £10,231,500. It was offered from the collection of Claude Hersaint, one of the most important collectors of Surrealist art in the 20th century, and has been exhibited in a number of retrospectives of the artist, including most recently the Grand Palais exhibition of 2018-2019 in Paris. 

Also offered from the Claude Hersaint Collection were Cage, forêt, et soleil noir  by Max Ernst, which sold for £3,082,500; and René Magritte’s Le mois des vendanges (1959), one of the artist’s largest and finest depictions of the iconic, enigmatic figure of the bowler-hatted man. The landmark painting, which sold for £10,002,500, was one of six Magritte works offered in the sale. 

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There were other impressive results. La grande marée (1946), a brightly coloured gouache by René Magritte, more than doubled its high estimate at £1,942,500; while Francis Picabia’s Danseuse étoile sur un transatlantique, one of the artist’s most important early paintings, fetched £1,246,500. 

There was also strong interest in Hannah Höch’s Der Berg (1939), which doubled its high estimate at £500,000; and in Man Ray’s Femme aux yeux baissés, a pen and ink drawing from 1937, which cruised past its high estimate of £35,000 before selling for £137,500. 

Corresponding online sales (until 31 March) offer a wide range of prints, paintings, sculpture and works on paper from the period.

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