From ONE to 1,733,906,375: Christie’s 2020 in numbers
In this challenging year Christie’s has embraced new digital technologies to connect its clients with our sales across the globe — maintaining strong results while making auction history
On 10 July, Christie’s made auction history with ONE, a live-streamed, four-hour marathon auction that took place in consecutive sessions in Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York. Using innovative streaming technology, the sale of 20th-century art topped $420 million, including more than $46 million for a late-career Roy Lichtenstein, Nude with Joyous Painting (1994).
Building on the unprecedented success of ONE, in October Christie’s launched 20th Century: London to Paris, a dynamic, cross-channel conversation between two culturally vibrant cities, followed in December by 20th Century: Hong Kong to New York, a relay sale live-streamed consecutively from Christie’s salerooms in Hong Kong and New York.
‘This hybrid-format concept sale is a way to adapt and innovate,’ commented Christie’s chief executive officer, Guillaume Cerutti. ‘We wanted to stage something that accommodates the current situation and serves our clients, wherever they are and however they wish to participate.’
The second sale offering works from the collection of Paul Destribats, the Paris-based bibliophile who documented the 20th-century avant-garde, realised €2,171,425, selling 100 per cent by lot and 100 per cent by value. The top lot was Iliazd’s Maquette de La Maigre, which sold for €162,500, more than double its low estimate.
The date in October when STAN, one of the most complete T-rexes ever found, sold for $31,847,500 — more than five times its low estimate.
Unearthed in 1987, less than a century after the existence of Tyrannosaurus rex had first become known, STAN represents what James Hyslop, head of Christie’s Science & Natural History department, described as ‘one of the best specimens ever discovered’.
Figures populate Marie Spartali Stillman’s The Enchanted Garden, which sold for £874,500, nearly triple its low estimate, in a dedicated single-owner sale of works from The Joe Setton Collection. Among the eight figures are Messer Ansaldo, a nobleman in Udine, and Madonna Dianora, the virtuous wife of another man. The source material for the magnificent watercolour, painted in 1889 at the height of Stillman’s career, is the fifth story on the 10th (and last) day of Boccaccio’s Decameron.
Charities around the world supporting communities impacted by the coronavirus pandemic benefited from the sale of 26 of photographer Mark Seliger’s most celebrated portraits.
Mark Seliger: RADArt4Aid, a special fundraising collaboration for Covid-19 relief produced in partnership with Mark Seliger and RAD (Red Carpet Advocacy), totalled $232,375, more than twice the pre-sale estimate. Every lot was sold, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to the designated beneficiaries.
Young, emerging and mid-career artists from across Africa and its diaspora featured in SAY IT LOUD (31 July-18 August), an online selling exhibition presented by Christie’s in collaboration with the Harlem Arts Alliance and curator and art advisor Destinee Ross-Sutton.
The weight in carats of this spectacular Type IIA D colour diamond ring, which sold at Christie’s for $2,115,000, setting a world record for the most expensive jewel sold in an online-only auction.
Large-scale artworks to browse and bid for in Dream Big, a summer online private selling exhibition featuring sculptures from across the world by the likes of Alexander Calder, Jeff Koons, Niki de Saint Phalle and Fernando Botero.
Exceptional pieces were offered online from the collection of philanthropist and couture collector Susan Casden.
Among the treasures was a Hermès matte ébène salvator lizard retourné Kelly 25 with ruthenium hardware, which sold for $37,500. Offered, too, was a Hermès fuchsia niloticus crocodile sellier Kelly with palladium hardware, which sold for $56,250, nearly triple its low estimate.
On 15 November 2020, Wayne Thiebaud — the American artist best-known for his still lifes of pies, pastries and other tempting treats — turned 100. Just four months earlier, Four Pinball Machines set a new wold auction record for the artist when it sold for $19,135,000 in Christie’s ONE sale.
Lots to choose from in The Private Collection of Ben Ichinose, an single-owner online sale that realised $2,340,800.
The sale included the finest wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Mosel and Madeira, alongside the greatest assemblage of mature Californian wines to appear at auction. Offered, too, were large formats of 1961 and 1964 Bollinger and an impressive selection of Château Lafite-Rothschild, featuring a 1961 imperial.
The width in centimetres of a breathtaking mosaic by Zao Wou-Ki and mosaic artist Dominique Hideux, which sold for €1,400,000 in Le jardin secret de Paul Haim, a dedicated single-owner sale that totalled €20,589,375, selling 100 per cent by lot and 100 per cent by value.
The work, formerly installed in the Basque sculpture garden of Paul and Jeannette Haim, was commissioned by Haim after he had visited the Houston home of the great collector Dominique de Menil and encountered a mosaic evoking Monet’s Water Lilies.
Published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the First Folio brought together the author’s collected plays for the first time. Only five complete copies of the First Folio remained in private hands, and in October Christie’s offered the first complete copy to come to market in almost two decades. It sold for $9,978,000, more than double its low estimate, in The Exceptional Sale at Christie’s in New York.
The year Tamara de Lempicka painted this dazzling portrait of Marjorie Ferry, a British-born, cabaret singer performing in Paris. It sold for £16,380,000 on 5 February at Christie’s in London, setting a new world auction record for the artist.
Barbara de Kwiatkowski was the 1970s It Girl —‘the embodiment of a decade’, as her friend, Interview magazine’s Bob Colacello put it. But behind the glamour was a discerning collector who owned extraordinary things, including four unique Warhol polaroids of Barbara dating to 1977, which sold for $21,250 at Christie’s in New York.
Warhol is thought to have used these snapshots as the starting point for an uncharacteristic pencil sketch of his muse, which fetched $37,500 on 3 December at Christie’s in New York. Additional treasures from The Collection of Barbara Allen de Kwiatkowski include Warhol’s Mao (1973) and an oval, brilliant-cut 10.59-carat diamond purchased as an anniversary present by her husband, Henryk de Kwiatkowski, from Harry Winston.
The estimated age in years of a magnificent pair of gold- and silver-inlaid bronze chariot fittings, likely to have been made for an emperor of the Eastern Zhou dynasty.
Intricately decorated and cast in the shape of a dragon pursuing a phoenix, the archaic bronzes would have been used to support a crossbow — with the charioteer using the dragon’s mouth to draw the string of the bow. The chariot fittings — described by specialist Cecilia Zi as ‘museum-quality’ — soared above the low estimate of £600,000 before selling for £1,522,500 at Christie’s in London.
The reference of the Patek Philippe titanium automatic ‘Cathedral’ minute repeating wristwatch that sold for HK$15,125,000 at Christie’s Hong Kong in July.
The timepiece was offered from The Titanium Collection, the most valuable single-owner collection of watches of this kind ever offered in Asia, and set a new world record for the reference.
The price, in pounds sterling, achieved by Marina Abramović’s The Life (2018-19), the first Mixed Reality work to be offered at auction. The groundbreaking artwork, which premiered at London’s Serpentine Galleries in February 2019, was acquired by the Faurschou Foundation, an art institution headquartered in Copenhagen with permanent exhibition spaces in Beijing and New York — the price setting a new world record for the artist at auction.
On 25 September a magnificent pair of 18th-century Chinese ‘Boys Jars’, which are thought to have been purchased by America’s original retail magnate, John Wanamaker, around 1907, sold for $1,650,000, more than double its low estimate.
Decorated with famille rose enamels, they feature scenes of young boys at play — some waving flags, others playing instruments, one riding a hobby horse. Although similar vases can be found in the Palace Museum in Beijing, it is exceptionally rare to find two imperial examples together — and, crucially, with their original covers.
Offered from the collection of Edsel & Eleanor Ford House — in which it had resided for more than 80 years — Nature morte avec pot au lait, melon et sucrier (c. 1900-1906) realised $28,650,000, setting a new world auction record for a watercolour by Paul Cézanne.
The price, in Hong Kong dollars, achieved by Sanyu’s Goldfish (1930s-40s) in a stand-alone single-lot auction at Christie’s Hong Kong on 2 December. Selling for HK$170,170,000, it established a record for an animal-subject work by the artist.
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The amount, in dollars, achieved by New York’s two-part Fall 20th Century auction season — the combined total of the early October 2020 sale series ($387.2 million) and December 20th Century series ($186,618,100/ £139,520,175).
The late-Fall 20th Century marquee week opened on 2 December with 20th Century: Hong Kong to New York, the relay sale live-streamed consecutively from Christie’s salerooms in Hong Kong and New York. A highlight of the autumn auction series in Hong Kong, it realised $119,273,225 / HK$920,350,057 — selling 90 per cent by lot and 97 per cent by value.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Pierreuse (1889) produced the top price of the sale at $9,062,000. The sale also set a cluster of new world auction records, among them Dana Schutz’s Elevator (2017), which sold for HK$50,050,000; and Amoako Boafo’s Baba Diop (2019), which soared above its high estimate of HK$1,500,000 before selling for HK$8,890,000.
Works offered in Hong Kong across five Modern and Contemporary Art Auctions in December achieved a combined total of HK$1,733,906,375 / US$224,706,473, a record-breaking result for Christie’s Asia.
In addition to Sanyu’s Goldfish, other notable results included Sanyu’s Pink Chrysanthemums in a Basket, which sold for HK$138,110,000; and Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline Series The Big Family No.2, which realised HK$98,035,000, setting a new world record for the artist at auction.