๐Ÿ“ˆ Gigaweek Auction Recap: Part 2

+ A Roller Coaster of a Night + The Art of Surprise

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HEY Yโ€™ALL! ๐Ÿ”ฅ

The Hammer is a series from Frame&Flame. Today's newsletter is a special edition focused on the final week of the New York auctions, dissecting the highs, the lows, and the surprises. Next week, I'll be switching back to the traditional format.

This weekโ€™s The Hammer includes:

  • ๐ŸŽขย Sotheby's Modern Art Evening Sale: A total of $223.4 million in sales and a 93.9% sell-through rate. Standouts include a record $20 million Rothko and Monet's piece as the top seller.

  • ๐Ÿ˜ฎย Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale: Achieved $154.6 million in sales with a 90% sell-through rate, highlighted by Gerhard Richter's $35 million masterpiece and a spotlight on emerging artist Jadรฉ Fadojutimi.

  • ๐Ÿ“ˆย Sotheby's The Now and Contemporary Evening Sales: Impressive $305.7 million total sales, with Julie Mehretu's record-breaking $10.7 million sale and a notable performance by Basquiat.

Let's go deeper ๐Ÿ‘‡

๐ŸŽขย Sotheby's Modern Art Evening Sale: A Roller Coaster of a Night


  • Total Sales: $223.4 million

  • Sell-Through Rate: 93.9%

  • Hammer Ratio: 1.07

The Highlights:

  1. Mark Rothko: A head-turning moment with a work on paper from 1968 fetching a jaw-dropping $20 million, doubling its high estimate and setting a new Rothko record! This sale not only highlights Rothko's timeless appeal but also marks a seismic shift in collector interest towards works on paper.

  2. Pablo Picasso: The story of "Compotier et guitare" (1932) is a mixed bag. Despite its rich narrative and guaranteed sale, the bidding was surprisingly restrained, barely scratching its $25 million region estimate. This indicates a nuanced, perhaps more cautious approach to the legends of modern art.

  3. Claude Monet: "Peupliers au bord de lโ€™Epte, temps couvert" (1891) taking the top spot isn't just about the price; it's a testament to Monet's enduring legacy in the upper echelons of the art world.


  • Withdrawn Lots: The strategic withdrawal of 8 out of 41 lots pre-sale is a tell-tale sign of the market's volatile pulse. It's about reading the room, understanding collector moods, and making last-minute calls that could make or break a sale.

  • Guaranteed Lots: A heavy reliance on house and third-party guarantees - a safety net in these unpredictable times. It speaks volumes about the auction house's tactics to keep the market buoyant and confident.

๐Ÿ˜ฎย Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale: The Art of Surprise


  • Total Sales: 154.6 million

  • Sell-Through Rate: 90%

  • Hammer Ratio: 1.15

The Highlights:

  • Gerhard Richter: The "Abstraktes Bild (636)" at $35 million is not just a sale; it's a statement. Richter's unwavering demand in the contemporary scene is a beacon for collectors looking to invest in proven, yet still dynamic, contemporary giants.

  • Jadรฉ Fadojutimi: A record-setting sale for Fadojutimi's work signifies a growing thirst for emerging, boundary-pushing artists. It's a wind of change, and it's blowing strong.


  • Withdrawn Pieces: With 4 lots withdrawn, Phillips's strategy was clear - play it safe but play it smart. It's about creating a balanced narrative, one that caters to the evolving tastes of a diverse collector base.

  • Under $10m Market: The fierce bidding for works estimated below $10 million is a crucial indicator. It shows a strategic shift in investment approaches, reflecting the current economic and political environment's influence on the art market.

๐Ÿ“ˆ Sotheby's The Now and Contemporary Evening Sales: A Mosaic of Market Forces


  • Total Sales: $307 million

  • Sell-Through Rate: 94.7%

  • Hammer Ratio: 1.06

The Highlights:

  1. Julie Mehretu: Her "Walkers With the Dawn and Morning" hammering at $10.7 million is more than a record; it's a milestone. Mehretu's sale highlights a surging demand for art that speaks to diverse perspectives and narratives.

  2. Jean-Michel Basquiat: "Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two)" falling slightly short of its estimated range is a nuanced reminder of the ever-changing tides in the high-end market for blue-chip artists.


  1. Phyllis Kao: Making a dazzling debut, Kao's performance at The Now sale was a breath of fresh air. It's a significant moment that could signal a shift in the auction world's dynamics.

    Withdrawn Lots: The strategic withdrawals at The Now sale underscore a market in flux, constantly adapting to the beats of global events and collector sentiments.

  2. High-Value Lots: Some hesitance observed in the high-value segment suggests the need for recalibration in estimates and expectations, reflecting a market that's both mature and cautious.

๐Ÿ“ˆย Key Takeaways from the Week's Auctions

  1. Modern vs. Contemporary: A Tale of Two Markets: This week's auctions highlighted a distinct dichotomy between the modern and contemporary segments. While the modern art sales, especially at Sotheby's, showcased the enduring allure of timeless classics like Monet and Rothko, Phillips's contemporary sale signaled a robust appetite for newer voices like Fadojutimi. This split underscores a market that's simultaneously revering its past while eagerly investing in its future.

  2. Strategic Market Adaptations: The notable number of withdrawn lots at both Sotheby's and Phillips points to a highly adaptive and strategic approach by auction houses. This move, while reflecting market uncertainties, also indicates a keen sense of timing and understanding of collector sentiment. It's a delicate dance of supply and demand, where the art of the auction is as much about what is shown as what is held back.

  3. The Rise of Emerging Artists: The significant attention and record prices for artists like Julie Mehretu and Jadรฉ Fadojutimi are indicative of a growing trend towards diversifying collections with emerging talents. These artists, with their fresh perspectives and innovative techniques, are attracting a new wave of collectors, possibly signaling a generational shift in the art patronage landscape.

  4. Guarantees as a Market Barometer: The reliance on guarantees, particularly at Sotheby's, serves as a barometer of market confidence. In a climate of economic and political uncertainty, these guarantees act as a safety net, ensuring a level of success but also suggesting caution in the face of unpredictable market responses.

  5. Collector's Evolving Preferences: The mixed responses to high-profile lots, like Picasso's "Compotier et guitare" and Basquiat's "Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two)", reflect an evolving taste among collectors. The market appears to be veering towards a more nuanced, perhaps even more intellectual approach to collecting, favoring pieces with compelling narratives or unique artistic merits over just big names.

  6. Global Participation and Influence: The auctions saw significant participation from a diverse global collector base, particularly from Asia. This international flavor not only impacts the dynamics of bidding but also influences the types of artworks that gain prominence, further diversifying the market.

  7. The Future of Auctioneering: The introduction of new faces like Phyllis Kao in the auctioneering world marks a shift towards a more dynamic, perhaps even more inclusive auction culture. This change could lead to a broader appeal and engagement with a younger, more diverse group of art enthusiasts and collectors.

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