Auction Week Wrecks Records

New York City -- Collectors snapped up a record $2.3 billion of art as two weeks of auctions wrapped up yesterday.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are astounded at the current run of auction prices.

The tally surpasses the $2.2 billion at New York’s auctions in May, which was higher than last November, when $1.8 billion of art was sold.

The estimated total reflects day and evening sales of Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips that began Nov. 4. Sales conclude today.

Christie’s set a record at its Nov. 12 evening postwar and contemporary auction with $852.9 million of art sold. Its tally over the two weeks was $1.2 billion. Sotheby’s set a record of $422 million at its Nov. 4 Impressionist and modern sale. Its sales totaled $1.05 billion over the same period.

Sotheby’s said that bidders were from 38 countries, with nearly 40 percent outside the U.S., and noted that there was “strong participation” from Latin America and Asia. Nine works sold for more than $30 million each.

Phillips sold $52 million of art at its evening sale yesterday and its day sale takes place today. Last night’s auction fell within its pre-sale estimate of $45.8 million to $67.8 million, with 39 of the 47 lots sold.

White Painting

An all-white Robert Ryman painting, shown above, from 2001, “Hour,” led the auction, fetching $5.2 million, just above its low estimate of $5 million. The work had a single bidder, by phone.

It was the fourth white painting by Ryman to sell in three days. A record for the artist was set on Nov. 11 at Sotheby’s, when a 1961 painting sold for $15 million.

The second-biggest lot was Willem de Kooning’s 1984 canvas of blue, red and black brushstrokes, which sold for $4.9 million, within its $4 million to $6 million estimate.

Another highlight was a bright, rainbow-colored square painting by Frank Stella from 1966. Estimated at $1.2 million to $1.8 million, multiple bidders drove the price to just under $4 million, nearly double its high estimate.

Young Artists

Phillips, the smallest of the top three auction houses, is known for thrusting young, relatively untested artists into the spotlight of the resale market.

Several of the house’s gambles worked. A wrinkled, shimmering canvas from 2010 by Tauba Auerbach, who was born in 1981, sold for $2.3 million, above its high estimate of $2 million. It was an auction record for Auerbach. Her previous highest sale was a dark blue canvas from the “Fold” series that sold in May at Phillips for $1.8 million.

An auction record was set for Rashid Johnson, who was born in 1977. His work “Born By The River” from 2013, made out of oak flooring, wax, black soap and paint, sold for $197,000, above a high estimate of $150,000. Danh Vo also gained an auction record for his giant sculpture of copper chains that sold to the dealer Philippe Segalot for $629,000.

Doodles Series

A sparse series of doodles in black, yellow, blue, white and red by Christian Rosa sold above its high estimate for $161,000. The work by Rosa, who was born in 1982, was estimated to sell for $80,000 to $120,000.

A painting by David Ostrowski, born in 1981, also had a solid result, selling for $119,000, just under its high estimate of $120,000. The mostly white, oil, lacquer, and paper on canvas painting, “F (It’s Not Easy Being A Supermodel),” was made in 2012.

Other works by younger artists didn’t fare as well.

An oil, paper and dirt on canvas creation with the word “milk” written in giant black letters by Oscar Murillo, who was born in 1986, sold for $245,000, $55,000 below its low estimate of $300,000.

A painting from 2012 by Lucien Smith, who was born in 1989, was estimated at $100,000 to $150,000, but failed to sell. One of two of Nate Lowman’s “Bullethole” sculptures from 2005, which was estimated at $200,000 to $300,000, also didn’t sell.

Inkjet Painting

An untitled inkjet painting by Wade Guyton from 2006 sold to a lone phone bidder for $4.6 million, above a low estimate of $4 million.

After a similar work by Guyton sold at Christie’s last year for $2.4 million, more than double its high estimate, Guyton’s profile in the art market rose dramatically. His works were on offer at all three auction house’s evening sales this year, with mixed results.

Of the 39 artworks that sold, 13 were created since 2010. Two were made this year.

One art advisor noted, "Any person I work with who sees the date of these things coming to auction is absolutely revulsed. Seeing an artist’s work come to auction so fast and so often is a reason not to look at the artist’s primary market."

Today's homepage Featured Art Video glances at some of the record breaking auction lots.