📈 Gigaweek Auction Recap

+ Christie's Playing it Safe + Sotheby's Building Confidence


The Hammer is a series from Frame&Flame, today's newsletter is a special edition zooming in on this week's NY auctions, dissecting the highs, the lows, and the surprises.

This week’s The Hammer includes:

  • 🛡️ At Christie's 21st Century Sale, we saw a smart play with $107 million in sales and a 95% sell-through rate. The big talk was about Jia Aili and Jenna Gribbon smashing records, showing thrkeappetitr new art heroes. it wasn’t all rosy - Jeff Koons' work di hit the high notes we're used to.

  • 🔨 Sotheby's Landau Sale turned heads with a whopping $406 million and every piece sold! Icons like de Kooning and Martin proved their timeless appeal, though Rothko's darker pieces saw some hesitance, showing the market's shifting moods.

  • 🎉 Wrapping up at Christie's 20th Century Sale, we saw a massive $648 million turnover and a strong 97% sell-through. Picasso and Mitchell stood tall, but Rothko again saw a mixed response, signaling the market's evolving tastes.

This sales tell us a lot: there's a keen eye for both new stars and timeless legends, and a clear shift in what collectors are chasing.

Let's go deeper 👇

🛡️ Christie's 21st Century Evening Sale: Playing it Safe

Top Ten Lost by Hammer Ratio at Christie's 21st Century Evening Sale


  • Total Sales: $107 million

  • Sell-Through Rate: 95%

  • Hammer Ratio: 0.88


  1. Jia Aili: The sale of his 2016 triptych "Combustion" for $4.7m, twice his previous auction high, is a testament to his growing prominence. The sale price, triple the Gagosian artist’s most recent high, reflects a rapidly ascending market interest.

  2. Jenna Gribbon: Christie's has been instrumental in shaping Gribbon's market. Her consistent high sales throughout the year, including a $403,200 sale in May and $276,315 in October, highlight a strategic market build-up.

  3. Ilana Savdie: The sale about 15% higher than last year’s Phillips auction, following a strong show at the Whitney, indicates a cautiously advancing market position, though the tepid rise raises questions about market momentum.


  1. Nicolas Party: His fruit still life, despite not reaching the low estimate, sold for $4.4m. This reflects a stable interest in Party's work, especially his fruit still lifes, in a retreating market.

  2. Henry Taylor: His piece "Batman" Part Alien, bid to $819,000, the artist’s third-highest price at auction, demonstrates his resilience in the market, especially for recent works.

  3. Robert Colescott: The sale of "Eat dem Taters" for close to $4 million, coupled with his recent market history, shows a selective but growing interest in Colescott's works.


  • Jeff Koons: The sale of his "Celebration series Baroque Egg" below estimates and previous auction prices suggests a downward adjustment in his market value.

Additional Insights: The sale's cautious approach in a softening market, characterized by a high sell-through rate and careful lot selection, indicates Christie's strategy to minimize risk while maximizing sales in a challenging environment.

🔨 Sotheby's Emily Fisher Landau Evening Sale: Confidence Building

Top Ten Lost by Hammer Ratio at Sotheby's Emily Fisher Landau Evening Sale


  • Total Sales: $406 million

  • Sell-Through Rate: 100%

  • Hammer Ratio: 1.02


  1. Willem de Kooning: The sale of his 1983 painting for $8.6 million, despite a previous work selling at a discount, shows sustained interest in de Kooning's later works, which are prevalent in significant contemporary art collections.

  2. Agnes Martin: Her "Grey Stone II" (1961) setting a new record at $17.7 million, surpassing the previous $10.6 million record, highlights her escalating market value and collector interest.

  3. Mark Tansey: The record price for "Triumph Over Mastery II" (1987) at $11.8m, significantly higher than the $7.4 million paid in 2018, indicates a solidifying market presence.


  1. Ed Ruscha: The sale of "Smash" (1963) for $39.4 million, though not surpassing his record price, demonstrates his consistent blue-chip status in the market.

  2. Cy Twombly: Despite a slight discount to the estimate, his Bacchus painting's performance with a 15% above low estimate bid reflects sustained market interest.


  • Mark Rothko: The sale of his darker works below estimates suggests a shift in collector preferences, possibly due to their challenging nature.

Additional Insights: The strategic use of full estimates and reliance on irrevocable bids indicate Sotheby’s focus on market confidence and cautious bidding in a selective market. The significant Asian participation also illustrates the diversifying global collector base.

🎉 Christie's 20th Century Evening Sale: A Sigh of Relief

Top Ten Lost by Hammer Ratio at Christie's 20th Century Evening Sale


  • Total Sales: $648 million

  • Sell-Through Rate: 97%

  • Hammer Ratio: 1.05


  1. Pablo Picasso: Strong sales, including the Reitman work, indicate a resurgence in his market and a possible broader flight to quality in the art market.

  2. Richard Diebenkorn: The sale of "Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad" (1965) for $46.4m sets a significant new record, highlighting a growing demand for his early works.

  3. Joan Mitchell: The sale of an untitled work from 1959 for $29m, establishing a new record, underscores her market strength and collector interest.


  1. René Magritte: The sale of a significant work at a 50% return over six years shows a stable and strong performance in the high-end market.

  2. Wayne Thiebaud: His "Dessert Table" scraping the low estimate but still making $9.3 million reflects a solid, if not spectacular, market interest.


  • Mark Rothko: Continuation of the trend from Sotheby's sale, where Rothko's works struggled to meet high estimates, indicates a market recalibration for his pieces.

Additional Insights: The diverse collection strategy paid off in a challenging market, with significant bids from Asian buyers affecting key lot outcomes. The set records for several artists, including Diebenkorn and Mitchell, highlight specific market segment strengths.

📈 Key Takeaways from the Week's Auctions

  1. Market Selectivity: The week's sales underscored a discerning market, with buyers gravitating towards either established icons or rising stars, leaving little room for mid-tier artists.

  2. Shift in Preferences: A noticeable shift towards contemporary artists like Jia Aili and Jenna Gribbon indicates a changing collector base, perhaps seeking fresh narratives and investment opportunities.

  3. The Resilience of Blue-Chip Art: Despite a softening market, works by legends like Picasso and Martin held their ground, reassuring investors of the art market's long-term value.

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