2.6 billion, 90 new records

First and foremost, thanks to the designer’s origins, the auction sale in May recorded sensational revenue (Warhol 195 million, Basquiat 85, Monet 75.9). But also excellent flops (Koons, Pollock, Bacon and Picasso). Meanwhile, the “Biennial effect” has begun


The king of e-commerce, a legendary gallery owner from the 1980s who died of AIDS, the most famous divorced couple in the United States, and a philanthropist with a former oilman. They were the protagonists of the most exciting saga of recent years with an art market that in New York in nine days, from May 10 to 19, reached a total collection of $ 2.6 billion (over 2.4 billion euros) e 90 new records.

Never as in this case, the descent has proved crucial in the auction houses, which have been able to assemble a series of super-designer collections that give each batch an indelible aura. After all, when works with less prominent pedigrees were presented, there were also disappointments for high-sounding names like Vincent van Gogh or Francis Bacon. Apart from the category under 40, especially women and colored artists, who represent the coolest sector at the moment, the rest owe a lot to the fame of their owners.

But let’s go in order: the star was Andy Warhol with “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn”, his most famous Marilyn on a blue background from the collection of the Swiss merchant Thomas Ammann died in 1993 at the age of 43 and his sister Doriswho managed the entire estate until his death just over a year ago, on March 21, 2021.

Well, the entire collection (the profits went to charity) got on May 9th Christie’s, 325 million dollars (the maximum estimate was 420 million). Of this sum well 195 millionthat 66% of the totalwas the privilege of “Blue Marilyn” alone, thus becoming the most expensive painting ever surpassed only by the controversial “Salvator Mundi” of Leonardo that on November 15, 2017 at Christie’s in New York had touched 450 million dollars.The famous icon, repeated countless times by the American artist, has returned to the starting spot since the winner was Larry Gagosian who had sold it to Ammann in 1986 for presumably less than $ 10 million. In addition, “Orange Marilyn”, which appears to have been sold in 2018 in private negotiations to finance magnate Kenneth Griffin for 250 mio dollars, May 14, 1998 from Sotheby’s in New York he had changed owner to 17.3 million dollars.

As commonly announced, the other leader was with Warhol Jean-Michel Basquiat with «Untitled» (the image of a devil appears in the middle) from the collection of the Japanese Yūsaku Maezawa that in 2019, with the only sale of 50.1% of Zozotown, the online clothing sales site, collected 3.7 billion dollars.

Maezawa was the main sponsor of Basquiat, which on May 18, 2017 from Sotheby’s in New York bought for a record amount of 110 million «Untitled» dollars with a black skull on a blue background; twelve months ago he had spent 57.3 million dollars for the painting sold May 18 by Phillips to 85 million dollars that contribute significantly to the success of the auction that with 225 million of dollars represents for the major the most important result in its history. Although far from the record, the Basquiat Prize, with an increase of 49% in six years (8.2% annually)it was not at all obvious when one considers that in the last three years for Jean-Michel there have been some rather sensational slips with unsold works worth over $ 15 million.

White gloves, or rather all sold, for collection Anne Bassex-wife of American oilman Sid Bass, known as filmmaker, philanthropist and collector who died on April 1, 2020 at the age of 79: 12 works was enough to reach 363 million of dollars at the Christie’s auction on May 12 (during the same day, also at Christie’s, it took 42 lots to bring the total 20th century evening sales to 468 million).

Along with the excellent results of Edgar Degas And Mark Rothkohas it imposed on itself Claude Monet with three paintings including “Le Parlament, soleil couchant” which made the auctioneer’s hammer stop at. 75.9 million of dollars, almost double the amount raised in 2015 at the Christie’s auction in New York for another composition of the same series awarded for 40.5 million dollars.Works by Mark Rothko and Claude Monet inside Anne Bass' apartment in New York © 2022 Visko Hatfield.  Lent by Christie'sWhen a long-lasting love is shattered, the auction houses rejoice, especially if the two quarrels are of boundless wealth and do not find an agreement on the sharing of assets. This is what happened to the crisp eighty-year-olds Linda and Harry Macklowe, who, according to the court’s decision, were to offer their paintings to the highest bidder. In this way, Sotheby’s achieved the highest result ever achieved for a private collection: 922 million dollars exceeding the total collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller that he in 2018 at Christie’s had collected 835.1 million dollars.

Of this sum 589 million they arrived from the auction in November 2021, while the 30 lots (out of 65) on 16 May remained achieved 246 million dollars. If «Untitled», a rather dark work by Rothko, has changed owner 48 mio of dollars, at least 30% above its value, the Macklowe effect was not always so evident, and Warhol’s expected “Self-Portrait” intersection of images of camouflage suits, stopped at. 18.7 million dollars by being beaten by another «Self-portrait» of the same size for which he had forced himself 24.4 million dollars in 2016 at Sotheby’s in New York. Also downhill Jeff Koons: «Popples», a porcelain doll with a blue balloon on his chest, stopped at 3.9 million dollars, $ 700,000 less than what the same “toy” had received in 2014 from Phillips in New York.

But the hardest aspect is understanding how top paintings land when they are not protected by the parachute from a widely publicized prestige collection. In this case, despite guarantees and irrevocable offers, the situation changes radically even for the big names. May 12 at Christie’s, for example, when attention was drawn to the folkloric performance of the almost unknown American artist. Ernie Barnes that with “The Sugar Shack”, his afro dance, it went from an estimate of 150-200 thousand dollars to an allocation of 15.2 million.“Number 31” of Jackson Pollocka dripping masterpiece, was lazily sold to 54.2 million dollars with a single increase. Also «Champs près des Alpilles» by Vincent van Gogh deserved more attention and allocation of 51.9 million $ 2.1 million is less than a much more modest landscape, which was sold in 2015 at Sotheby’s in New York for $ 54 million.On May 17, watched Sotheby’s “Femme nue couchée” in Pablo Picassoamong his best surrealist works coming from the multimillionaire’s collection Steve Cohenhedge fund manager, reached 67.5 millionbelow expectations, and immediately after a portrait of Tamara de Lempicka, «Femme à la robe jaune», returned to the original owner despite a request for 5-7 million dollars. Also on May 19, again at Sotheby’s, “Study of Red Pope” by Francis Baconalready unsold by Christie’s in New York in 2017, changed ownership for 46.3 million of dollars, which is far from the maximum estimates of $ 60 million.

In New York, the Biennale effect and “The Garden of Parcelsus” were not lacking Leonora Carringtonthe surrealist artist who inspired “The Milk of Dreams” was awarded on May 17 by Sotheby’s for 3.2 million dollars, double the estimates: two days later, again at Sotheby’s, the US Simone Leighwinner of The Golden Lion, has tenfolded viewers with «Birmingham», a terracotta and porcelain sculpture sold for 2.1 million dollars.

Among the Italians, the surprise was the return of Francesco Clemente that on May 9 with “The Fourteenth Station n. 14”, inspired by Via Crucis and from the collection of Thomas Ammann, set the record for 1.8 million of dollars, ridiculing the forecasts of 80-120 thousand dollars (the previous record held since 2006).

Finally, the euphoria for very young painters continues, and the last star crowned by the market is the twenty-seven year old Anna Weyant entered the Gagosian stable and, according to rumors, new flame of the 77-year-old Larry. The reactions among the fans were immediate and on May 19, Anna Sotheby’s reached with “Falling Woman” 1.6 million dollars, (ten times the estimates), crosses Flemish art, John Currin and a pinch of noir. A cocktail that apparently makes you fall in love.

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