Guston, Basquiat, Boafo Works to Lead Christie’s Contemporary Day Sale

Philip Guston, Raoul’s Tool (1973). Courtesy Christie’s.

Works by market heavyweights such as Philip Guston, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Amoako Boafo will lead a Christie’s postwar and contemporary day sale scheduled to take place in New York on July 10. Among the leading lots slated to come to the auction block is Guston’s Raoul’s Tools (1973), a signature piece from late in the artist’s career. Featuring an axe at its center, the paintings is inspired by the one of the artist’s favored subjects, the American sculptor Raoul Hague. Purchased in 2006 at London’s Timothy Taylor Gallery by its seller, the work has not yet appeared at auction and is expected to go for $1.5 million–$2 million.

In its usual fashion, the contemporary day sale will feature works by both blue-chip names and emerging artists at estimates ranging from $30,000–$40,000 to $2 million–$3 million. Specialists heading the sale said they hope the momentum of the 20th-century evening sale carries over to their auction.

Among the highest-priced lots of the sale is a work on paper from 1981 by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The work coming up for sale in July features a number of signature motifs found in his most expensive works: a crown of thorns, a skull, and a scrawled reference to anatomical texts. The untitled piece has been in private hands since 1982, when it was bought at Annina Nosei Gallery, Basquiat’s first New York dealer. The work is slated with an estimate of $1.2 million–$1.8 million.

Alongside historical names like Basquiat and Guston, Christie’s has also secured a painting by up-and-coming painter Amoako Boafo, who has seen a meteoric rise at auction. His painting Orange Shirt (2019) carries an estimate of $40,000–$60,000. Depicting a central figure in a patterned shirt with arms akimbo set against a yellow background, the painting is emblematic of Boafo’s portraiture style. In February, at Phillips’s biannual “New Now” sale in London, the first Boafo painting to come to auction, The Lemon Bathing Suit, sold for a staggering $880,971, making 13.5 times its high estimate of $65,257. Only a year old, the work was originally purchased at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in Chicago by the seller.

For this sale, Christie’s specialists are expecting to see the same demand for Orange Shirt, despite the uncertain market due to its quality. “We have seen a very strong interest in the current market for some of the younger contemporary artists,” Emily Kaplan, senior specialist and head of postwar and contemporary art day sale at Christie’s New York, told Art Market Monitor, adding that there remains interest in works by emerging artists, specifically from collectors in Asia, where some countries have reopened following a lockdown that created financial strain. But, Kaplan said, how the painting performs at auction “will be definitely a test of the market.”

“The buying pool for Boafo has been quite global in nature, we’ve seen interest from Asia, Europe and the United States as well as other regions, which really underscores the interest in Boafo really spans borders,” said Kat Widing, head of postwar and contemporary art afternoon sale at Christie’s New York.

Christie’s recently announced a consolidated contemporary evening sale held across its global sale sites titled “ONE.” The contemporary day sale session will take place directly after and will be staged with a live auctioneer and remote bidding from the New York headquarters. “We’re hoping to capitalize on the global interest in that sale,” Kaplan said, referring to “ONE.”

As the collecting landscape continues to shift following the coronavirus, Christie’s contemporary specialists are still seeing rising demand for high-caliber works across the emerging and blue-chip markets, despite the changes in sales formats and various auction postponements. “There’s an overall demand for quality,” Kaplan said. “Across the board collectors seem to be extremely hungry for quality works, whether that is a very young emerging artist like Boafo or someone more established.”

Those established markets remain generally unchanged, however. “At the beginning of Covid-19 there was always the questions as to whether the established markets would hold stronger than some of the emerging ones,” Rachael White-Young, specialist, head of morning sale, postwar and contemporary art, said. “Some of the artists like Guston, who have had very robust markets for a very long time and seen continued growth, are the ones that a lot of our more traditional collectors are continuing to look at.”

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