An historic season at Christie’s in New York finished on Thursday, with the final total across seven sales hitting $1,421,993,000 / £1,082,817,271. The highlight was the extraordinary 19-minute bidding battle for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in Wednesday’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, culminating in the work being sold for a world-auction record price of $450,312,500 (including buyer’s premium).
The depth and quality of art offered across the week was remarkable, with nine works realising more than $10 million, a further eight being acquired for in excess of $20 million, and three achieving more than $50 million.
The season got off to a flying start with Monday’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. Featuring museum-quality works by Monet, Vuillard, Van Gogh, Léger, Picasso and Magritte, the auction realised $479,320,250 / £366,172,842 (88 per cent sold by lot, 96 per cent by value) — the second highest total for an Impressionist & Modern Art auction in Christie’s history. You can watch a replay of the sale via our Facebook Live feed.
The top-priced lot of the night was Vincent van Gogh’s Laboureur dans un champ, a richly painted view from the window of the artist’s room in the asylum at Saint-Rémy. The subject of a prolonged bidding battle, the painting was finally acquired for $81,312,500 / £62,118,029 (including buyer’s premium), the second highest auction price ever achieved for the artist.
The next highest price on the night was realised when Fernand Léger’s Contraste de formes (1913) sold for $70,062,500, easily eclipsing the previous world-auction record for the artist. New world-record auction prices were also set for works by Jean Crotti, Suzanne Duchamp, Édouard Vuillard, René Magritte and Emil Nolde.
The Van Gogh masterwork was one of a number of major paintings offered from The Collection of Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass, which realised $143,432,500 on the night, before finishing the week with a total of $161,314,750. A selection from The Collection of Stanford Z. Rothschild, which included works by Monet, Pissarro, Redon and Delaunay, and the Beyond Boundaries selection of New York Dada works from an important European Collection also excited collectors.
The Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale and Works on Paper sale generated $35,836,125 and $15,116,625 respectively. The group of seven exceptional animal bronzes by Rembrandt Bugatti all sold, led by his depiction of a group of six cart horses, Dix minutes de repos ou Le grand fardier (1906), which realised $1,152,500.
The draw of collections assembled with great expertise over many years was equally evident in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, which realised $785,942,250 / £597,220,555 (84 per cent by lot, and 94 per cent by value) — the second highest total for a sale in this category in Christie’s history. The top Post-War and Contemporary prices were achieved for large and important pieces by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly and Mark Rothko.
The superb American Abstract Expressionist works from The Eppler Family Collection — the first comprehensive survey to be offered at auction since 2012 — were led by Franz Kline’s Light Mechanic, pictured at the top of this story, which sold for $20 million. The collection realised $71,593,500 across the week. The top price among the 10 works offered from The Collection of Melva Bucksbaum was a graphite on paper by Vija Celmins, which sold for $4,212,500, a new world-auction record for the artist.
Ten artist auction records were set in the Evening Sale, and it was a particularly strong night for female artists: Lee Krasner was among the record-breakers, and there was strong interest in works by Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse and Louise Nevelson. Further records by medium were set for works by Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, Jean Dubuffet and Richard Serra. To watch a playback of this historic auction, see our Facebook Live feed.
The season closed with two further Post-War and Contemporary Art auctions, with the Morning Session totalling $62,262,625 (86 per cent by lot, 91 per cent by value), and the Afternoon Session realising $42,097,000 (87 per cent by lot,
90 per cent by value). The online sale of Picasso Ceramics was 100 per cent sold, raising $1,418,125.
‘There was a fantastic spirit of camaraderie at Christie’s this week,’ said Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s Americas. ‘The outstanding artworks collected by the Bass, Eppler and Simpson families formed the core of our offerings this week and we saw clients from all our major regions respond favorably to great provenance, rarity and superlative quality.’ Above all, said Porter, ‘I am exceedingly proud of our Christie’s team, and their innovative and collaborative approach to engaging collectors and art-enthusiasts.’