New York 20th Century season realises $1.1 billion

Looking back on a week of auctions featuring masterworks that represented some of the greatest collections assembled in the United States

One thousand and seven lots offered across nine auctions, 33 world records set for individual artists, new auction records for a work by a living artist (David Hockney) and for a pre-war American painting (Edward Hopper), $1.1 billion in total sales — just a few of the headline figures for 20th Century  season at Christie’s in New York. 

It was a week of truly great paintings from the very best collections, facts that were reflected in strong results. The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection, the greatest privately owned collection of American Modernist art ever to come to market, realised $323,103,500 (sold 98 per cent by lot and 97 per cent by value).

Impressionist works from The Elizabeth Stafford Collection, which has been offered across 2018, brought the collection total to $94,689,250; the total for The Collection of Herbert and Adele Klapper moved to $41,143,500, with more works to be offered in London; the portraits of Picasso’s different lovers and muses from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection achieved $20,737,500; The Collection of A. Jerrold Perenchio realised $18,629,125. 

Post-war and contemporary works from The Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson totalled $48,059,250, while the five works offered from The Collection of François and and Susan de Menil realised $43,967,500, led by a beautiful Mark Rothko canvas.  


Claude Monet (1840-1926), Le bassin aux nymphéas, painted in 1917-1919. 39 ¾ x 79  in (100.7 x 200.8  cm). Sold for $31,812,500 on 11 November 2018 at Christie’s in New York

Claude Monet (1840-1926), Le bassin aux nymphéas, painted in 1917-1919. 39 ¾ x 79 in (100.7 x 200.8 cm). Sold for $31,812,500 on 11 November 2018 at Christie’s in New York

‘It was an honour to have been entrusted this season with so many masterworks representing some of the greatest collections ever assembled in the United States,’ remarked Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s Americas. ‘The strong results achieved over this week were a tribute to the passion of these visionary individuals, and we are proud to have represented them so well and so thoroughly to the global marketplace, from Paris to Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, and here in New York.’

The season opened on Sunday with the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Salewhich totalled $279,253,500 with bidding from 35 countries. The highest price of the night was achieved for Claude Monet’s Le bassin aux nymphéas, which realised $31,812,500, while auction records were set for Tamara de Lempicka and Jean Arp.

Watch the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in full — Read the auction report

Next was a special curated sale, Alberto and Diego Giacometti: Masters of Design, which totalled $11,467,250 (more than twice its high estimate) and was 100 per cent sold, followed by the Impressionist and Modern Art Works on Paper  sale and the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale, which realised a combined total of $38,216,500. 

Both online sales — Picasso Ceramics: Including Property from the Collection of Joan A. Mendell  ($1,924,625) and Selections from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem Sold to Benefit the Acquisitions Fund  ($217,500) — were 100 per cent sold. 


Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Chop Suey, painted in 1929. 32 x 38  in (81.3 x 96.5  cm). Sold for $91,875,000 on 13 November 2018 at Christie’s in New York

Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Chop Suey, painted in 1929. 32 x 38 in (81.3 x 96.5 cm). Sold for $91,875,000 on 13 November 2018 at Christie’s in New York

Tuesday 13 November was a landmark for the American art market, with An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection Evening Sale  achieving $317,801,250. Thirteen artist auction records were set on the night, including that for the most expensive work of pre-war American art with Edward Hopper’s Chop Suey, which sold for $91,875,000 — the highest price of the week. 

Watch a replay of the Barney A. Ebsworth Collection Evening Sale — Read the auction report

A further 49 works from the collection were offered in the subsequent Day Sale, which produced another 11 artist records. 

On Thursday, David Hockney’s seminal Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)  sold for $90,312,500 (£70,227,449), a world record price for a living artist. The painting was the top lot in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, which totalled $357,622,500 (85 per cent sold by lot and 93 per cent by value). 

Watch a replay of the Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale — Read the auction report

The final two sales of the season — the Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning Session  and the Post-War and Contemporary Art Afternoon Session — produced a combined total of $95,091,750, which brought the overall total for 20th Century  at Christie’s in New York to $1,106,897,125 / £858,689,125 / €978,371,858.