Thiebaud, Guston Bring Christie’s Contemporary Day Sale to $31 M., New Benchmark Set for Titus Kaphar

Titus Kaphar, Still Hungry. Courtesy Christie’s.

On Friday, Christie’s brought in more than $500 million across its Hong Kong salerooms and global ONE sale. Following seven new artist records and high results for names like Roy Lichtenstein and Joan Mitchell, Christie’ staged it’s contemporary day sale directly after the relay-style auction.

The results proved buyer activity was not slowed amid concerns over the economic drop in the wake of the pandemic, but seller reluctance has lead to contracted offerings. The total for the day sale auction was $30.8 million across a total of 114 lots on offer, seeing a near perfect sell-through rate. In the May 2019 equivalent sale, the morning and afternoon day sessions brought in a total of $92.9 million across 250 lots.

Wayne Thiebaud saw a new record of $19.1 million set for his 1962 pinball machine in the ONE sale. Another early work, a 1964 ice cream picture, Three Cones lead the day sale shortly after going for for $3.7 million, doubling the low estimate of $1.8 million. George Condo’s The Chef made in 2019 was among the works fresh to the market. The red-backed single-figure picture went for $1.1 million, besting its high estimate of $900,000. Philip Guston‘s 1973 mid-sized work, Raoul’s Tools which the seller acquired in 2006 hammered at the low end of its estimate. The work reached a selling price of $1.8 million, its pre-sale estimate was $1.5 million to $2 million. While the leading lots of the sale performed solidly within their estimates, works by emerging and under valued talent drew spirited bidding.

Three of the auction’s first four lots were by Black contemporary artists in high demand—Titus Kaphar, Amoafo Boako and Lynnette Yiadom-Boakye. In Christie’s sale, Kaphar’s 2008 work Still Hungry set a new benchmark moving his record up to $350,000, selling for more three times the low estimate of $100,000. The young American artist’s untitled painting inspired by a 19th century portrait recently set a new record in Phillips contemporary evening sale at $187,500 (the new benchmark follows the artist’s commission for the June TIME magazine protest cover).

Boafo, a painter based in Vienna who has seen nearly twenty recently made works flipped on the secondary market in the last several week also featured in the sale with the second-highest figure for his 2019 work Orange Shirt. The painting, which depicts Boafo’s subject in a patterned orange fruit shirt for which the work is named went for $212,500, in excess of five times the low pre-sale low value of $40,000. Across the top three auction houses, Boafo’s works have consistently beat estimates by more than three to four times their original estimates.

Yiadom-Boakye, a British-Ghanian painter known for her depictions of Black figuration last saw an auction record of $1.6 million in a Sotheby’s sale in November 2017. Her 2011 painting, A Heaven to Live For in Christie’s sale hammered at the high end of its estimate of $600,000, placing with the winning buyer for $759,000.

A name less familiar to contemporary auctions was a 2005 painting by Los-Angeles-based 62-year-old artist Henry Taylor—who gained renown for his portraits of psychiatric-ward patients. Unseen on the market previous to this sale and acquired directly from the artist, Ardmore Taylor aka “Mo” which features a Texas horse-trainer with two guns at his feet went for $471,000. The work sold for more than than three times the low estimate of $150,000. Nearing seven figures, Taylor’s auction record stands at $975,000 for the sale of I’ll Put a Spell on You (2004), a figurative scene sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 2018.

French artist, Claire Tabouret’s 2019 painting, The Swimmers came from a private collection in Asia, selling for $87,500, more than double the low estimate of $40,000. Tabouret is among the names this week who saw new records. Her current highest price was set in Phillips Hong Kong contemporary evening sale when $451,551 for her 2015 painting, Les déguisements (Disguises). Works donated by artists in partnership with amfAR to provide funding for coronavirus reliefs efforts were also offered in the sale. In this section of the sale, new works made during quarantine entered the market for the first time. Both Cecily Brown’s The Wanton Boy, which went for $312,500, and Eddie Martinez’s Untitled (Sleeper for amfAR), which sold for $137,500 doubled the low estimates.

More from Art Market Monitor