Christie’s in 2022: the stories behind a year of epic auctions, record-setting sales and memorable masterpieces
Over the past 12 months a dazzling array of iconic artworks and legendary names have graced our salerooms, from Michelangelo to Bob Dylan, Marie Antoinette to Mary Cassatt, Napoleon Bonaparte to James Bond — and let’s not forget the biggest sale in auction history, the Paul G. Allen Collection. Here are some of the numbers that have made this such an extraordinary year
Only one single-owner sale has ever surpassed the $1 billion mark: The Paul G. Allen Collection. After two days of sales on 9 and 10 November, artworks owned by the co-founder of Microsoft had realised $1,622,249,500. This was the most valuable private collection ever assembled, with works ranging from the Renaissance to the cutting edge of contemporary art. All sale proceeds have been directed towards philanthropic causes.
Five lots from the Paul G. Allen Collection realised more than $100 million each: Georges Seurat’s Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version) ($149,240,000); Paul Cezanne’s La Montagne Sainte-Victoire ($137,790,000); Vincent van Gogh’s Verger avec cyprès ($117,180,000); Paul Gauguin’s Maternité II ($105,730,000); and Gustav Klimt’s Birch Forest ($104,585,000).
Jeff Koons spent seven years perfecting the size, shape and colour of Balloon Monkey (Magenta) (2006-13), which realised £10,136,500 on 28 June, with proceeds going towards humanitarian relief in Ukraine. The sculpture was donated by the collectors Victor and Olena Pinchuk. ‘Art’s true value is to be of service to humanity,’ said Koons, ‘and there could not be a higher calling at this moment than to support the Ukrainian people.’
Eight new artists’ records were set in London in the sale of the Sina Jina Collection of contemporary art from Africa and the diaspora — the largest ever single-owner auction of its kind. The sale took place on 13 October and totalled £2,960,484, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the African Arts Trust.
Throughout October, Christie’s in New York held 10 auctions of The Ann & Gordon Getty Collection. More than 1,500 lots were offered, spanning fine and decorative arts, jewellery and textiles. Every single item sold, raising more than $150 million in total.
The first live auction, Volume 1: Important Pictures and Decorative Arts, drew nearly two million viewers online. The top lot was Mary Cassatt’s Young Lady in a Loge Gazing to Right, which sold for $7,489,000. All the proceeds from the 10 sales went to the couple’s charitable foundation for arts and science organisations.
On 21 May it took our Hong Kong auctioneers 11 hours to work their way through The Visionary’s Spectacular Cellar. Including an online sale on 23 May, 15,000 bottles were offered as part of the most valuable single-owner wine collection ever sold at Christie’s. A total of HK$131.8 million (US$16.8 million) was realised, with proceeds from the sale benefitting the London Business School.
Ernie Barnes was just 13 years old when he snuck into the Durham Armory in 1952. What he witnessed in that iconic dance hall in segregated North Carolina would inspire the creation of his painting The Sugar Shack, a quarter of a century later. It depicts the swaying of limbs and flapping of fabrics in blissful unison, as a group of revellers lose themselves to the sheer joy of dance.
The work was sold for $15.2 million in the 20th Century Evening Sale on 12 May, during Christie’s $1.26 billion 20th/21st Century Art week in New York, which included The Collection of Anne H. Bass. Bidding for The Sugar Shack lasted for more than 10 minutes, with competition from 22 bidders. The price was 76 times the high estimate ($200,000) and about 28 times Barnes’s previous auction record ($550,000, set at Christie’s in November 2021 with the sale of Ballroom Soul).
A landmark exhibition of 16 museum-quality works by Francis Bacon and Adrian Ghenie was staged by Christie’s this year. Although the pair were born almost 70 years apart, their paintings have a striking amount in common — notably their capacity to take viewers to dark places while managing to retain a certain mesmerising beauty.
Placing the two artists’ works side by side — seven by Bacon and nine by Ghenie — Flesh and Soul: Bacon and Ghenie was held first in May, at Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, and then in September at BOONTHESHOP Cheongdam in Seoul, where it was a highlight of Seoul Art Week and coincided with the first Frieze Seoul art fair.
The largest pear-shaped fancy vivid pink diamond ever to appear at auction weighs 18.18 carats. The stone is known as the ‘Fortune Pink’, and its mass is auspicious — the number symbolises ‘definite prosperity’ in Asia. It toured Shanghai, Taiwan and Singapore before selling in Geneva for CHF 28,436,500/US$28,570,150 on 8 November.
Bob Dylan was still an aspiring folk singer, aged just 20, when he wrote Blowin’ in the Wind. He debuted it at Gerde’s Folk City, a music venue in New York’s Greenwich Village, that same evening. In 2021 Dylan and his long-time collaborator T Bone Burnett re-recorded the track on a new type of aluminium disc called an Ionic Original, which has been described as ‘the pinnacle of recorded sound’. The one-off disc was offered in London on 7 July, realising £1,482,000 — more than double its low estimate.
Between 1962 and 1991, Francis Bacon produced just 28 large-scale triptychs, each measuring 78 x 58 inches (198 x 147.5 cm), nearly half of which reside in museums worldwide. On 1 March Triptych 1986-7 — depicting, from left, US President Woodrow Wilson; a figure resembling Bacon’s then-partner, John Edwards; and an over-scaled rendering of Leon Trotsky’s bloodstained, cloth-covered recording equipment — sold in London for £40,364,500.
A forgotten Michelangelo drawing, measuring 33 cm x 20 cm, was rediscovered by specialist Furio Rinaldi in a private French collection in 2019. The long-lost work, which is a study of a figure in Masaccio’s fresco cycle in the Brancacci Chapel, Florence, came to Christie’s in Paris in May and shattered the artist’s record, achieving €23,162,000.
It took 40 days, working around the clock, to machine the three case parts of an extraordinary Richard Mille RM56-01 watch from transparent sapphire crystal. Another 350 hours were then spent polishing the crystal to make it perfectly clear. This iteration, from a limited edition of five, has Formula 1 racing provenance, and sold on 6 November in Geneva for CHF 3,654,000.
At the 59th Venice Biennale, Christie’s became the first auction house to support the British Pavilion, which commissioned the artist Sonia Boyce to make a work.
The result, called Feeling Her Way, is a multi-screen video installation that examines the history of black women in the British music industry. It went on to scoop the Biennale’s top prize, the Golden Lion.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Sean Connery’s first appearance as agent 007 in Dr. No, a blockbuster sale of James Bond memorabilia was held in September, with proceeds benefitting the Prince’s Trust and the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund. Among the pieces on offer were Pierce Brosnan’s speedboat from The World Is Not Enough, Timothy Dalton’s cello-case sled from The Living Daylights and a stay at Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye villa in Jamaica. The top price of the night, however, was realised by Daniel Craig’s stunt Aston Martin DB5 from No Time to Die, which sold for £2,922,000.
The German art critic, curator and dealer Heinz Berggruen opened his Paris gallery at 70 rue de l’Université in 1949, with an inaugural exhibition of Picasso drawings previously in the possession of Gertrude Stein. Berggruen went on to become a close friend of Picasso, and amassed more than 100 of his works — including Le repas frugal, which realised £6,014,500 in London on 1 March.
In exile on the island of St Helena, Napoleon dictated a 74-page account of his ‘most perfect victory’ at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. The unique document opens with a summary of geopolitical events in the run-up to Austerlitz, and features memorable descriptions of episodes that took place before, during, or just after the battle itself.
Describing the eve of combat against the combined forces of the Russian and Austrian empires, for example, he declares, ‘This is the most beautiful evening of my life. But I regret to think that I’ll lose a good number of these fine men.’ The manuscript sold for £277,200 at The Exceptional Sale in London on 7 July.
With Henri Matisse as her grandfather, Joan Miró as her godfather and Marcel Duchamp as her stepfather, Jacqueline Matisse Monnier can certainly be said to have had decent connections to the art world.
Born in 1931 in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, she went on to amass an impressive collection of works, almost entirely by artists she knew personally. Matisse Monnier died in 2021, and 78 works from her collection were offered at Christie’s in Paris on 13 April this year.
The top lot was Henri Matisse’s painting Nymphe et faune rouge (1939), in which the Frenchman tackled one of his favoured subjects: the love affair between a nymph and a faun. The pair’s arcing red forms appear almost as one, against a background of blue and yellow. The painting fetched €5,185,500, almost three times its low estimate.
Sculpting Paradise: The Collection of Marie Lalanne witnessed the sale of 157 lots created by the consignor’s parents, François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne. The auction was a highlight of December Design Week in New York, which also included sales dedicated to Alberto and Diego Giacometti and Tiffany. Together they realised $98 million, marking Christie’s most successful Design season ever.
Before Marie Lalanne’s collection was offered in New York, Christie’s partnered with Kering to host a highlights exhibition at its Paris headquarters on the rue de Sèvres, running alongside the inaugural edition of Paris+ par Art Basel.
There are an average of 500 knots per square inch in this superb imperial Mughal pashmina carpet. It was woven around 1650 for the court of Emperor Shah Jahan, who famously commissioned the Taj Mahal. It sold for £5,442,000 on 27 October, making more than double its low estimate.
Inside the Orange Box, comprising two sales in June and September-October, offered a total of 523 Hermès lots — the culmination of one collector’s lifelong obsession with the French fashion house. This was the largest single-owner sale ever held by Christie’s Handbags & Accessories department, featuring bags, jewellery, scarves, blankets, watches and more. It achieved €4,008,186.
The cellars at King’s College, Cambridge, are said to contain more than 50,000 bottles and have existed since 1446, after the college’s founder, King Henry VI, granted its students an annuity of one tun of French wine (the equivalent of 256 gallons). In December, 45 lots of Burgundy from the cellars, all produced by the legendary vineyards belonging to Henri Jayer and his nephew Emmanuel Rouget, were offered in London. One lot, consisting of 12 bottles of Henri Jayer for Georges Jayer Echézeaux 1999, fetched £100,000.
‘The year 1913 is a key one for Franz Marc: he is experimenting with a new dynamic visual language, inspired by Orphism and Futurism, which would become his leaping-off point into abstraction,’ observes Keith Gill, head of Impressionist and Modern Art in London. One result of this was The Foxes, which was sold in London on 1 March for £42,654,500 — a new world record for the artist. The painting had been restituted in 2021 by the city of Düsseldorf to the heirs of the Jewish banker and businessman Kurt Grawi and his wife Else.
Between 1915 and 1918, Christie’s in London held a series of annual charity auctions to benefit the work of the Red Cross, the world’s largest humanitarian network helping people affected by conflict and armed violence. Among the most spectacular lots to be offered was the Red Cross Diamond, a 205-carat canary-yellow, cushion-shaped diamond with a pavilion faceted in the shape of a Maltese cross.
On 11 May 2022 the extraordinary stone was offered at Christie’s for the third time in just over 100 years. After 11 minutes of competitive bidding, it sold for a record CHF 14,181,250, with a significant portion of the sale proceeds benefiting the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In 1952, Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy opened Maison de Givenchy, which he swiftly established as one of the most progressive couture houses of the post-war era. He retired in 1995 after 43 years at the helm. In June the fashion designer’s collection realised a total of €118,116,172 across six sales. Highlights from the objects and artworks offered from his two majestic homes — Hôtel d’Orrouer on the Left Bank in Paris and the Château du Jonchet in the Loire Valley — included Alberto Giacometti’s Femme qui marche [I], which realised €27,169,500, and a pair of French monumental girandoles, circa 1790-1800, which sold for €4,956,500.
The weaving of Alighiero Boetti’s 2.3-metre-wide Mappa began in 1979, the year in which Russia invaded Afghanistan. Previously exhibited at Tate Modern in London, MoMA in New York and Reina Sofía in Madrid, it is one of the last tapestries Boetti was able to have handwoven in Kabul before his access to the country was curtailed. It sold on 20 October as part of the Thinking Italian auction, which relocated from London to Paris this year.
This is the model number of the GLI mixer used by DJ Kool Herc during a party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx in 1973. There, with this machine, he pioneered the technique of simultaneously playing music from two parallel turntables — and laid the foundations of hip hop. The mixer, along with its disco set up, sold for $201,600 in August, one of 169 lots from the collection of the ‘Father of Hip Hop’, which also included flyers, sunglasses, tracksuits and a disco ball.
The NFT Woman #5672 realised £567,000 on 1 March in London. It is one of a series of 10,000 digital portraits created by Yam Karkai, designed to address the imbalance of female representation in digital art, whether as a maker, developer or collector. Six months later, Christie’s launched ‘Christie’s 3.0’ — an on-chain auction platform dedicated to NFTs, which also accepts Ethereum payments.
Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, owned 17,000 pieces of furniture at the time of the French Revolution in 1789 — all of which would be sold off by the leaders of the First Republic. Two of her pieces featured in The Exceptional Sale in Paris on 22 November.
One was a commode, made around 1770 in the popular chinoiserie style by the cabinetmaker Pierre Macret for the young queen’s residence, the Château de Compiègne. The other was an Etruscan-style armchair from the late 1780s, commissioned as part of a suite from the great Parisian menuisier Georges Jacob when Marie Antoinette completely remodelled her apartments at Versailles. The former fetched €942,000; the latter €902,000 — more than four times its high estimate.
At its peak in the 1950s, Burnden Park in the northwest of England, home to Bolton Wanderers football club, could accommodate 70,000 spectators. In the largest and arguably finest of his pictures dedicated to sport, L.S. Lowry depicts fans heading to the ground before kick-off on a Saturday afternoon. Going to the Match sold in London on 19 October for £7,846,500, smashing the artist’s record price. After the sale, it was revealed that it had been bought for the public by The Lowry arts centre in Salford, Greater Manchester.
In December, Christie’s recorded more than 100,000 followers on the social media platform TikTok. Recent highlight reels have included a Classic Week walkthrough video with Pinsent Tailoring and a pair of Virgil Abloh gold Air Force 1 Nike sneakers.
On 28 June, Beatriz Milhazes’s Cebola Roxa sold for £856,800. The painting, which was donated by the artist and White Cube gallery, was the latest work to be offered in an ongoing series of sales called ‘Artists for ClientEarth’. The collaborative initiative is raising funds and awareness to help the art world make important and necessary steps to reduce its carbon footprint and fight climate change.
Two sales of Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art held at Christie’s in London in November raised a combined total of £2,844,450. Top prices were achieved for works by Ali Banisadr from Iran, Ayman Baalbaki from Lebanon and Samia Halaby from Palestine, whose paintings went for £415,800, £201,600 and £189,000 respectively — all soaring above their top estimates.
A new auction record for a work by Lucas Cranach the Elder was set on 7 July when The Nymph of the Spring realised £9,430,000 at the Old Masters Evening Sale in London. Painted between 1540 and 1545, it is the largest and arguably most ambitious of the German painter’s 12 extant nymph paintings. ‘The sleeping figure was almost the perfect subject for Cranach,’ observes specialist Maja Markovic. ‘It allowed the artist to portray a sensual female nude while also moralising about the sins of sexual pleasure.’
This year, four photographs sold for a total of $30 million in New York, among them Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924, which was offered in The Surrealist World of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs. One of the most recognised images in 20th-century art, Man Ray’s unique gelatin silver print sold in May in New York for $12,412, 500 — the highest ever price for a photograph at auction.
In March, 140 photographs were offered in New York by Richard Gere, a collection praised by Christie’s International Head of Photographs Darius Himes for having ‘a level of aesthetic harmony and sophistication that you rarely see’.
Andy Warhol’s iconic Shot Sage Blue Marilyn from 1964 became the most expensive 20th-century artwork ever sold when it realised $195,040,000 on 9 May in New York. The 40-square-inch acrylic and silkscreen on linen was auctioned to benefit the foundation of prominent collectors Thomas and Doris Ammann. The title of the work references a now notorious incident when the performance artist Dorothy Podber asked to shoot four Marilyn canvases stacked against Warhol’s studio wall. Assuming she wanted to photograph the works, Warhol said yes, but Podber instead pulled out a pistol.
Sales of 20th- and 21st-century art in Hong Kong realised a total of HK$3,391,274,680 (US$436,175,574) across 2022. In November’s 20th/21st Century Art Evening Sale, an impressive 57 per cent of works surpassed their high estimates. The top lot of the night was Joan Mitchell’s Untitled, which fetched HK$83,350,000 (US$10,720,227). The evening saw records set for 12 artists, including Nicolas Party and Georgette Chen.
The inclusions in a slice of meteorite sold on 6 April are 4.5 billion years old, which makes them the oldest matter that can be touched by human hands. The slice was offered as part of a single-owner collection consigned by Mike Farmer, the famous ‘Meteorite Hunter’. It realised £7,560.