Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale

Georgina Hilton selling Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild

Christie’s recently reformatted 21st Century Evening sale, a cerebral mix and match of younger and more established artists, showed off plenty of action on Tuesday evening and delivered a respectable $103,064,200.

The tally, including fees, came close to the high end of pre-sale expectations pegged at $76,650,000-106,470,000.

Estimates do not include the tacked on buyer’s premium for each lot sold.

The hammer total was $87,270,000.

All of the 31 lots offered sold making it a so-called ‘white glove,’ 100 percent sold evening.

That might be a stretch given that two of the top tier lots, both by Jean-Michel Basquiat and estimated at an unpublished figure of $30 million and the other at $4-6 million were withdrawn from the sale at the 11th hour.

Five lots carried third party or house financial guarantees, including the mighty cover lot Gerhard Richter.

Seven artist records were set with three of them made by women artists.

Anna Weyant, Summertime, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.), 2020.

The evening jump-started with Anna Weyant’s Old Master looking “Summertime” from 2020, depicting a young woman resting her cheek on a table framed by a vase of flowers and that sold for a record $1.5 million (est. $200-300,000).

The 27 year old artist recently joined the stable of Gagosian Gallery

Amoako Boafo, Yellow Dress, oil on four joined sheets of paper overall: 57 1⁄2 x 53 7⁄8 in. (146 x 137 cm.), 2018

The figurative parade continued with Amoako Boafo’s powerful seated portrait, “Yellow Dress” from 2018, an image that launched a Dior advertising campaign and that made $819,000 (est. $250-350,000) and Salman Toor’s car interior setting, “Girl and Boy with Driver” from 2013 that motored to $882,000 (est. $150-200,000).

Shara Hughes, Spins from Swiss, oil and dye on canvas, 78 x 70 in. (198.1 x 177.8 cm), 2017

Price points and bidding shot higher with Shara Hughes’ exuberant and color charged 78 by 70 inch landscape in oil and dye on canvas, “Spins from Swiss” from 2017 that triggered a bidding war among four contenders and realized a record $2,940,000 (est. $500-700,000).

Matthew Wong, Green Room, oil on canvas, 96 x 72 in. (243.8 x 182.9 cm.), 2017

Records continued to tumble as Matthew Wong’s Hockney-esque and boldly hued “Green Room” from 2017 and large-scaled at 96 by 72 inches sold for $5,340,000 (est. $1.5-2 million).

María Berrío, The Celebration, watercolor, gold leaf, graphite, and Japanese rice paper collage on, canvas, in six parts overall: 72 x 108 in. (182.9 x 274.3 cm.), 2011

The warm-up group of younger and recently emerging cadre of artists, many of them women, rounded out with María Berrío’s “The Celebration” from 2011 featuring a densely textured group of women dancing that brought $1,320,000 (est. $500-700,000) and [lot 9B] Ewa Juszkiewicz’s face draped seated woman, “Portrait of a Lady (After Luis Leopold Boilly)” from 2019 that soared to $1,560,000 (est. $200-300,000).

The proceeds will benefit the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw Poland.

Jonas Wood, Green Garden Landscape Pot, oil and acrylic on canvas, 118 x 93 in. (299.7 x 236.2 cm.), 2016

Nearing blue chip status, Jonas Wood’s instantly recognizable and jumbo-scaled “Green Garden Landscape Pot” from 2016 went for $3,060,000 (est. $2.5-3.5 million).

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild, oil on canvas, 88 5⁄8 x 78 3⁄4 in. (225 x 200 cm.), 1994

Any expected fireworks for the evening’s cover and top lot, Gerhard Richter’s magisterial “Abstraktes Bild” from 1994 and heroically scaled at 88 5/8 by 78 ¾ inches, didn’t exactly pan out as it hammered at $33 million or $36,500,000 with fees (unpublished estimate on request in the region of $35 million).

Still, the painting carried considerable gravitas, formerly in the collection of super rocker Eric Clapton who acquired it at Sotheby’s New York in November 2001 (barely 2 months after 9/11) for $3,415,750 and sold it at Sotheby’s London in November 2012 to the current consignor for a then record £21,321,250/$34,190,756.

Speaking of super stars and big surprises, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s triptych in acrylic, oil, oil stick and hardware on hinged wood construction, titled in part after a James Joyce novella, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict” from 1982 was withdrawn from the sale (unpublished estimate in the region of $30 million)

A second Basquiat from the same consignor, identified in the mini-auction catalogue as “Here is the King-Basquiat Masterworks from 1982,” with an equally quirky title, “See Plate 3” and also comprised of acrylic, oil and oil stick on canvas and wood construction in two parts, was withdrawn (est. $4-6 million).

Painted in black and white with various text descriptions such as ‘roman buckle bronze’ and ‘head of a fryer,’ the 24 ½ inch high sculpture last sold at auction at Christie’s New York in May 1991 for $22,000 (est. $10-15,000).

The pair occupied a separate viewing room at the firm’s Rockefeller Center headquarters, magnifying their importance in the auction.

In post-sale comments, Christie’s ceo Guillaume Cerutti said it was a mutual decision between Christie’s and the seller. “We could have sold them but just not at the level we wanted. We had to make a call and it was the right thing to do. “

Christopher Wool, Untitled, enamel on aluminum, 72 x 48 in. (182.9 x 121.9 cm.), 1988

At any rate, the absence took some of the wind out of the evening’s sails. Still other high-wattage works scraped by including Christopher Wool’s graphically bold text painting “Untitled” from 1988 that hammered a million dollars under the low estimate but made $8,405,000 with fees (est. $8-12 million). It came to market with a house guarantee.

The current seller acquired the painting from the Robbin Lockett Gallery in Chicago in 1988, making it the ultimate in buy and hold collecting philosophy.

Mark Grotjahn, untitled (Mouth of Japanese Tiger 41.41), oil on cardboard mounted on linen, 60 1⁄4 x 48 1⁄2 in. (153 x 123.2 cm.), 2010

Mark Grotjahn’s intensely marked and potent composition, “Untitled (Mouth of Japanese Tiger 41.41)” from 2010 and executed in oil on cardboard mounted on linen realized $3,540,000 (est. $3-4 million) and Adrian Ghenie’s fractured and reassembled image “Antelope Attacked near Gas Pipe 2” from 2019 and wall hogging at 98 by 116 1/8 inches sold for $2.220,000 (est. $2.5-3.5 million).

Still on the heavy-hitter front, Jeff Koons’ “Lobster” from his Popeye Series, a suspended sculpture in mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating made $3,780,000 (est. $3.5-5.5 million). It came to the block backed by a third party guarantee.

It last sold at Christie’s New York in May 2016 for $6,885,000, showing a sizeable retreat of the Koons’ market.

Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, oil on linen, 84 x 84 in. (213.4 x 213.4 cm.), 1982

Better news greeted Eric Fischl’s narrative thriller from the bygone ‘80’s, “The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog” from 1982 fetched a record $4,140,000 (est. 2-3 million). Per Skarstedt, the artist’s primary market dealer was one of the underbidders from his front row seat in the salesroom.

The painting is rich in provenance, a kind of mini-tour of the Neo-Expressionist led 1980’s art world, including Mary Boone and the Saatchi Collection.

Ouattara Watts, Afro Beat, acrylic, oil, oilstick, metallic paint, and inkjet on canvas collage on canvas, 96 1⁄2 x 97 in. (245.1 x 246.4 cm.), 2011.

Other veterans of that defining era included Ouattara Watts’ high-powered “Afro Beat” from 2011, executed in acrylic, oil, oilstick, metallic paint and inkjet on canvas collage on canvas that hit a record $781,2200 (est. $100-150,000).

Though late in the sale, Glenn Ligon’s 72 inch square text based “Stranger #57” from 2012 and a major work from his James Baldwin inspired series, drew fire power and sold to art advisor Aileen Agopian for $1,560,000 (est. $600-800,000.)

The sale ended on an NFT note with Refik Anadol’s “Living
Architecture: Casa Batilló in Metaverse” from 2022, replete with custom software and generative with sound. It made $1,380,000 (est. $1-2 million) and comes accompanied by an artist-signed 3D physical certificate.

The evening action resumes on Thursday at Christie’s back to back Bass Collection and 20th Century sales.

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