Warhol’s $195 Million Marilyn Kicks Off Epic New York Auction Season

“Gallerists have historically proven to be the best collectors,” said Alex Rotter, Christie’s president of 20th and 21st century art, ahead of its May 9 sale of 36 works by Swiss dealer siblings Thomas and Doris Ammann. . On the evening, another renowned gallerist – Larry Gagosian – helped make history by winning Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” (1964) for $170 million ($195 million including fees). In 1986 it was Gagosian who sold to work for Thomas Ammann. It is now the second most expensive work ever sold at auction and the most expensive piece of art of the 20th century.

The staggering sum was still below expectations – the painting was estimated at $200 million, while some hoped it would break the aberrant record, ‘Salvator Mundi’ (c1500) by Leonardo da Vinci, which sold 450 million dollars in 2017.

Against a backdrop of falling stock markets, some common sense prevailed, but the Marilyn marked the end of a decent auction, of which 33 other 35 distinct and often avant-garde works entered the estimate of the sale (two did not sell), making a total with the Warhol of $273 million ($318 million with fees, is $285 million to $421 million). Another 66 works come from the Ammanns’ collection at Christie’s on May 13, with proceeds from all going to children’s charities.


‘Portrait of a Lady (After Louis Leopold Boilly)’ (2019) by Ewa Juszkiewicz © Christie’s Images

Sales season in New York has just started. “After several years of pent-up supply and demand, it’s like an Olympic fortnight, and Ammann was the opening ceremony,” says Ben Clark, managing director of art consultancy Gurr Johns. As of this writing, there is still a potential $2 billion worth of artwork to come to the evening auction alone.

Christie’s began mixed sales on May 10 with mostly 21st century works, including younger and fashionable artists. This makes a total of $87 million ($103 million with fees), which was within the estimates but below initial expectations, since two works by Jean-Michel Basquiat — including a 1982 triptych estimated at $30 million — have been removed. The auction as a whole was relatively muted, perhaps due to the massive amount of block this month. The highest price of the night was $33 million for Gerhard Richter’s 1994 “Abstraktes Bild” ($37 million with fees, is $35 million).

There were still some characteristic upticks for recent works, including a 2019 painting by Ewa Juszkiewicz that sold for $1.3 million ($1.6 million with fees) from an estimate of $200,000 at $300,000. Yoshimoto Nara’s “Be Happy” (1995), which sold for around $350,000 in 2006, went for $6.4 million on Tuesday, while Jeff Koons sold in reverse. An edition of his “Lobster” (2007-12) was bought for $6.9 million in 2016 but resold for $3.8 million this week.


‘Flowers-Shells’ (1928) by Max Ernst © Courtesy of Di Donna Galleries, New York

The extended auction season has not necessarily good news for New York’s coinciding art fairs. “People are waiting to see what happens at these sales,” says Manhattan dealer Emmanuel Di Donna, who exhibited at Tefaf New York (May 6-10). He sold works including gouaches by Max Ernst and André Breton, although he said these were between $100,000 and $300,000, “rather than several million dollars”.

The first reported sales of the independent fair (May 5-8) were mostly at even lower levels, including sold-out stands of paintings by Jennifer J Lee (Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, $10,000 at $12,000) and Los Angeles artist Kent O’Connor (Matthew Brown Gallery). In Nada New York, Charles Moffett, who recently opened a new gallery in Tribeca, reported a sold-out stall of eight new paintings by Julia Jo for $12,000 each, including one at the ICA Miami museum.


David Zwirner Consignment Tool

As the lines blur between auction houses and galleries, mega-dealers are building their capacity in the secondary market. This week, David Zwirner is launching a consignment tool that allows potential sellers to quickly submit their art for review via desktop or mobile. The gallery hopes to attract supply to meet the current demand for top-notch art, says senior associate Kristine Bell.

Resales are nothing new for the gallery – Zwirner says they have been part of its business since its launch in 1993 – but the move follows a rise in such transactions, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and a lack of public exhibitions. “We were forced to be a private dealer,” explains Zwirner. He describes the difference between the two business areas: “In the primary market, you’re trying to introduce people to something they don’t know; in the secondary market, you fill in and identify gaps in their collections.

While margins tend to be higher for new works (around 50%), the secondary market offers historical works whose value is soaring. Zwirner describes its commissions as “competitive” with auction houses, where they can reach 26%. He says that by value, the gallery makes about 60% of its sales in the primary market and 40% in the secondary market. “If you have a Warhol ‘Shot Marilyn’ you should go through an auction house, but for many artists that’s not the case.” His gallery has achieved secondary sales above public auction records for artists such as Joan Mitchell and Ad Reinhardt, he says.


Misan Harriman | © David Parry/Shutterstock

The Tezos Foundation, Switzerland the not-for-profit arm of the Tezos blockchain network, has committed £1 million to create a non-fungible token art collection. The funds initially went to Misan Harriman, a photographer, NFT collector and social activist who chairs the board of London’s Southbank Centre. His plan is to focus on emerging artists from Africa and Asia.

“As a black man, at the top of my game in photography, I know how lucky I have been and I think every day of the people who have lost in the lottery of life because of the economy. of their situation. Smart contract technology gives a fighting chance for the democratization of merit-based opportunities,” says Harriman.

Works from the Tezos Foundation’s permanent art collection will be featured on its website and will be physically exhibited “as soon as possible”, says Tezos co-founder Arthur Breitman. The Foundation holds about $1 billion in funds, he says.

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