Sotheby’s have completed their November Sales in New York with a contemporary art evening sale, which totaled a huge $276.6 million. This lot was not only the week’s most impressive in terms of total sum, but also due to its sell-through of 94%, with only 4 out of the 64 lots failing to be sold.
This huge success is in part down to the first ever appearance of artworks from the Steven and Ann Ames collection. Sotheby’s had already guaranteed this collection for $100 million earlier in the year and, on the night, it drew in a total of $122.8 million, more than 40% of the night’s total takings. While this guarantee might originally have been a huge risk, it is a risk that has clearly paid off.
The auction even saw two new artist records set; David Hockey at $11.7 millions, and Nigerian-born Njideka Akunyili Crosby at $1.09 million. Crosby’s Drown, the painting which set this record, was originally only estimated at $200,000-300,000. The auction highlight, however, was Gerhard Richter’s A B Still (1986) which eventually sold for $34 million, after valuation of $20-30 million, to a bidder assumed to be from Germany, meaning the painting will be returning home after decades in the USA. When Ames purchased this originally from Marian Goodman it was only $264,000.
The huge success of these auctions demonstrates that the art market is still strong. While there have certainly been dips in the market – the contemporary sale at Christies was down 16% from last year – there is clearly still a strong interest in art. The downward trend can be discouraging for collectors, since they often hold onto works they think will sell for more when interest resurges. Yet, with this fantastic sell-through rate from Sotheby’s, it’s easy to hold a very positive outlook for now.
While the world economy might seem to be teetering on the edge, the art world, although affected, is still progressing. Many works remain to be bought and sold and to see such purchases and such fantastic records set, bodes well for art collectors and artists alike.