20th Century season in New York totals $683 million

Auction records set for Ed Ruscha, Umberto Boccioni, Ellsworth Kelly and other great artists in a season of impressive results

The eight auctions across 20th Century season in New York totalled $683,342,225 / £532,661,847, with strong sell-through rates and registered bidders from across the world. 

The week opened with the Impressionist and Modern Art auctions, which realised a combined $230,040,000. The top lot of the evening sale was René Magritte’s Le seize septembre, which realised $19,570,000. Umberto Boccioni’s Futurist masterpiece Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio (Unique Forms of Continuity in Space)  set a new world auction record for the artist when it sold for $16,165,000.

Read our in-depth report on the Impressionist and Modern Art sales


Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio (Unique Forms of Continuity in Space), conceived in 1913 and cast in 1972. Bronze. Length 35 in (89 cm). Sold for $16,165,000 on 11 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio (Unique Forms of Continuity in Space), conceived in 1913 and cast in 1972. Bronze. Length: 35 in (89 cm). Sold for $16,165,000 on 11 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

The cross-category La Ménagerie auction, which included works of sculpture and design based on artists’ interpretations of animals and wildlife, totalled $10,915,250, selling 84 per cent by lot and 93 per cent by value. 

The top lot of the sale, which was curated by Christie’s Design and Impressionist and Modern Art departments, was a fully functional, one-of-a-kind ‘Hippopotame I’ Bathtub, 1969, by François-Xavier Lalanne, which sold for $4,335,000 against a pre-sale high estimate of $1,500,000.

The online auction of Picasso Ceramics was 100 per cent sold and realised a total of $1,774,750. Three separate lots sold for $106,250, the top price achieved in the sale.

François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008), Unique ‘Hippopotame I’ bathtub, conceived in 1968, executed in 1969; this work is unique. Welded brass and copper. 50½ x 114 x 33  in (128.3 x 289.6 x 83.8  cm), closed. Sold for $4,335,000 on 12 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008), Unique ‘Hippopotame I’ bathtub, conceived in 1968, executed in 1969; this work is unique. Welded brass and copper. 50½ x 114 x 33 in (128.3 x 289.6 x 83.8 cm), closed. Sold for $4,335,000 on 12 November 2019 at Christie’s in New York

The Post-War and Contemporary Art auctions produced similarly stellar results, with the evening sale totalling $325,259,750 — 96 per cent sold by value. Ed Ruscha’s Hurting the Word Radio #2  led the way, realising $52,485,000 — a new auction record for the artist.

The Post-War and Contemporary Art morning and afternoon sessions realised a combined $117,126,225 — the highest total in auction history, taking the total for Post-War and Contemporary Art to $325,259,750. 

There were a number of records set in the day sales, including auction highs for exciting contemporary artists such as Julie Curtiss with Pas de Trois, 2018 ($423,000); Shara Hughes with Georgia, 2007 ($337,500); and Carrie Mae Weems with Kitchen Table Series, executed in 1990 and printed in 2003 ($237,500). 

Read our in-depth report on the Post-War and Contemporary Art sales


Leading collections offered across the season produced impressive results. At the end of the week, the total for The Collection of James and Marilynn Alsdorf stood at $49,720,000; The Collection of Elieen and I.M. Pei had reached $49,720,000 with further works to be offered in Hong Kong; The Collection of Terry Allen Kramer moved to $27,680,875; The Collection of Richard L. Weisman totalled $22,529,500; The Ron and Diane Disney Miller Collection reached $9,396,420, with further works to come; and The Clarke Collection totalled $14,347,375.