Christie’s $48 M. New York Sale Brings New Records for Emerging Artists

Salman Toor, Rooftop Ghost Party I (2015)
Courtesy Christie’s

On Thursday, Christie’s contemporary art day sale featuring the collection of Morton And Barbara Mandel generated a total of $48.9 million with buyer’s premium across 211 lots, landing below its pre-sale estimate of $60 million and achieving a 73.8 percent sell-through rate. On the heels of Christie’s $119.3 million Hong Kong to New York hybrid auction, this sale brought the total of the 20th Century Week series to $168.2 million.

A bulk of the sale comprised works from the collection of philanthropists Morton and Barbara Mandel, sold to benefit the Mandel Foundation. Represented by the first 82 lots of the sale, together with Picasso’s grey Femme debout (1941) from the Evening sale, the consignment featured works by blue-chip American postwar names. The Mandels acquired most of the works privately but the auction generated a total of $14.8 million. Ad Reinhardt’s Red Painting (1950) was the highest seller of the group, going for $1.05 million. The next top lot from the Mandel selection was Jackson Pollock’s painting Untitled (1953), which sold for $1.5 million.

While Christie’s set-up the Mandel collection as the sale’s main attraction, emerging artists not from the Mandel’s collection delivered the best performances. The day sale made records for six artists. Pakistan-born New York-based painter Salman Toor’s Rooftop Party with Ghosts I, which the seller purchased at the artist’s 2015 showcase at Aicon Gallery sold for $822,000, a factor of 8 times its low estimate of $100,000, and the third work by the artist to come to auction. The late Matthew Wong‘s market has maintained its stride. Coming of Age Landscape (2018) sold for $1.6 million, surpassing the low estimate of $500,000— still well below the record set during Christie’s relay sale, where Wong’s River at Dusk for $4.9 million and set a new record for the artist.

While many of the day sale lots were new to the market, George Condo’s Fruit Man from 1983, which last sold in 2005 at Christie’s London for £10,800 ($5,775), outperformed its estimate of $70,000 to sell for $200,000 with buyer’s fees at Christie’s again.

Vaughn Spann, I grew an extra head to watch over my brother (The Middle of Nowhere), 2018
Courtesy Christie’s

Vaughn Spann, a figurative painter based in New York made his auction debut in Christie’s day sale. A 2018, double-headed portrait on a cadmium red-ground I grew an extra head to watch over my brother (The Middle of Nowhere) sold for $187,500 with premium, making double the low estimate of $80,000. In May 2018, a smaller painting by the artist was showcased in a group exhibition “Eight Emerging Artists” at Boston-based Steven Zevitas gallery where it sold for a price under $10,000. Thursday’s sale’s low estimate signifies a solid jump in the primary market price since 2018, the same year the artist was featured in the Miami-based Rubell Museum’s “New Acquisitions” show.

Primary market darling Titus Kaphar, whose records have moved up consistently in the past several months alongside his art having been featured on the cover of TIME this summer, was among the up-and-comers who saw a new record price. Kaphar’s 2016 painting Portrait in Tar I sold for $750,000, twice the high estimate of $350,000.

Elsewhere in the sale, Sarah Sze’s donation of Surprise Ending sold to benefit a New York City nonprofit made $737,500 against a high estimate of $300,000, setting a new record for the artist. Another auction record was set for Ursula von Rydingsvard with Ona, a 2005-06 cedar sculpture that sold for $200,000, and was part of a group of 7 lots that were donated by various artists to benefit Storm King Art Center, which together generated a collective $658,750. Other records were set for Jammie Holmes with Blue Apron going for $47,500 and Joel Mesler‘s Untitled (One Day at a Time) placing with a new buyer for $87,500.

Among the works that failed to sell included minor examples by blue-chip staples like Andy Warhol, Richard Price and Willem de Kooning and several works by George Condo, whose Sculptor last sold at Phillips London in June 2008 for £115,250. At Christie’s, it failed to find a buyer at a price of $300,000-$500,000.