Sales of Basquiat, Monet and Picasso brings the global art market back with a $1.5bn bang

THE international art market came back with a $1.5 bn bang last week. The New…

THE international art market came back with a $1.5 bn bang last week. The New York sales of Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s achieved $1,474.2 million. These eye-watering amounts signal the resurgence of the market in the first half of 2021.

After a 20-minute bidding battle a monumental 1932 masterpiece by Pablo Picasso — Femme assise pres d’une fenetre (Marie-Therese) — made $103,410,000 at Christie’s. This is the first time a work of art has broken the $100 million barrier since the Spring of 2019, well before the pandemic.

Viewers tuned in worldwide to watch Christie’s 21st Century evening sale which was headed by Jean Michel Basquiat’s skull painting In This Case which made $93.1m. The auction was 95% sold by lot with 57% of buyers from North America, 24% from the Asia Pacific region and 19% from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The sale of art made in the past 40 years set 11 new records. The 35 artists whose work was sold marked a diverse group in race and nationality. Christie’s say that this truly represents the art world today. In this vein the Post War and Contemporary Art day sale saw new auction records for female abstract expressionists Yvonne Thomas and Lynne Dexler.

Le bassin aux nympheas by Claude Monet made $70.3 million at Sotheby’s.

A large scale Water Lily painting by Claude Monet was the top lot at Sotheby’s. Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas made $70,353,000 in an epic evening of auctions where three sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art brought in $596.8m. This was up 64% on the equivalent sales in 2020.

In-room bidders in New York, telephone bidders in Hong Kong, New York and London and online bidders from around the world vied for artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries. The format of in-person and virtual bidders worked exceptionally well. Eight works sold for over $20m and 11 new auction record were set. There were participants from 47 countries and 1.7 million livestream viewers.

Richard Diebenkorn's Ocean Park no. 40 made a record $27.3 million at Sotheby's.
Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park no. 40 made a record $27.3 million at Sotheby’s.

Richard Diebenkorn’s seven foot tall Ocean Park no. 40 from the Marion collection sold for a record $27.3m over a top estimate of $30m. It was sold at Sotheby’s in 1990 for $880,000. Art by Andy Warhol, Clyfford Still, Gerhard Richter and Richard Diebenkorn lead a collection which brought in $157.2m. Jean Michel Basquiat’s Versus Medici sold for $50.8m. Michael Macaulay, Sotheby’s senior international specialist for contemporary art said: “There is no question. Basquiat’s now stand alongside Any Warhol, Pablo Picasso and other great artists of the 20th century”.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s achieved more than $700m in art sales last week.