Whitehot Magazine

June 2013: May Art Market Report


Close-up of Robert Longo’s “Untitled (Leo).” The charcoal on paper was sold for $1,575,000 as part of Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation’s “11th Hour Auction” held at Christie's on May 13, 2013.


By Shireen Lohrasbe



THE 2ND EDITION OF FRIEZE New York transpired May 10–13. This year, the fair presented 186 galleries from 32 countries and drew 45,000 visitors. In terms of sales, Judd Tully at Artinfo wrote: “Early business was [brisk] at London’s Lisson Gallery, where Haroon Mirza’s complicated ‘Shelf for Carl Cox’ (2013), an assemblage featuring a wooden cabinet, LED, copper tape electronic components, and speakers sold for £30,000, while an untitled Anish Kapoor wall sculpture went for £500,000. In between those price points, a Rodney Graham light box work sold for $90,000.”
          Other notable five-six figure transactions included: works by Paul McCarthy, Matthew Day Jackson and Rashid Johnson at Hauser & Wirth; works by Robert Longo, Alex Katz and Tom Sachs at Galerie Thaddeus Ropac; Tom Friedman at Luhring Augustine; Walton Ford at Paul Kasmin; Sarah Sze at Victoria Miro; Nick van Woert and Liza Lou at L&M Arts; Antony Gormley at Sean Kelly; Tal R at Cheim & Read; several artists at James Fuentes’ booth; Thomas Ruff at David Zwirner; Tino Sehgal at Marian Goodman; Geta Bratescu at The Ivan Gallery; Mika Rottenberg at Andrea Rosen; and, Patricia Leite at Mendes Wood DM.

CUTLOG NY—a Parisian transport—was held for the first time this year. The inaugural New York edition invited 46 galleries and included extensive programming such as simultaneous screenings of Art21′s “New York Close Up”, Noah Becker’s “New York is Now” and Vernissage TV’s “Around the art world in one go.” Other Frieze week satellite fairs included: Pulse, NADA and Collective.

ON MAY 7, SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK held its Impressionist & Modern Art sale. It achieved $230.4 Million but failed to reach the lower end of its $235.1M pre-estimate. Of 71 lots, 84.5% sold, which is a relatively high percentage for the auction house in this category.

ON MAY 8, CHRISTIE’S NEW YORK held its Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale that fetched $158.5 Million. Of 49 lots, 94% by lot and 90% by value—the highest numbers achieved in this category since 2006. More specifically, 36 lots sold for over $1 Million, 10 for over $5M, and 4 for $10 M+. The top lot was Chaïm Soutine’s “Le petit pâtissier,” which attained an astounding $18 Million, setting a new world record for the artist.

THE LEONARDO DICAPRIO FOUNDATION held a charity auction at Christie’s, May 14. Titled “The 11th Hour” (after Leo’s 2007 documentary), the sale raised $38.8 Million for wildlife and environmental protection. According to the press release, “[it] included 33 works by today’s most prominent artists, many of which were created specifically for this cause. 13 world auction records were attained and 9 works of art were sold for over one million dollars, with many lots realizing well over their pre-sale estimates. Highlights included Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled, which sold for $6.5 million and Zeng Fanzhi’s The Tiger, which fetched $5 million.”

ON MAY 14, SOTHEBY’S CONTEMPORARY evening sale achieved an impressive $293.6 Million. Of 64 lots, 82.8% sold-by-lot. Don Bryant of Bryant Family Vineyard purchased Gerhard Richter’s “Domplatz, Mailand” for $37.1 Million. This established the new worldwide record for any living artist—an honor Richter already claimed (thus beating his own record).

CHRISTIE’S HELD ITS EQUIVOCAL CONTEMPORARY auction May 15, which earned a staggering $495 Million—the highest auction tally achieved in history! Of 70 lots, 94% sold by value and by lot; 59 lots sold for over $1 Million, 23 lots for over $5M, 9 for over $10M and 7 for $20M+. New records were set for artists: Joseph Cornell, Hans Hofmann, Piero Manzoni, Philip Guston, Richard Serra, Luc Tuymans and Julie Mehretu. Additionally, new records were achieved for Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jackson Pollock who earned the top bids. Pollock’s “Number 19,” sold for $58.4M; Lichtenstein’s “Woman With Flowered Hat,” sold for $56.1M to jeweler Laurence Graff; and, an anonymous phone bidder bought Basquiat’s “Dustheads” for $48.8M.

ARTTACTIC’S MAY AUCTION ANALYSIS revealed a few key findings. “Last week’s Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sales in New York raised a total of $759,680,000 (excluding buyer’s premium) against a pre-sale estimate of $685,800,000 - $906,800,000, which is the second highest total since November 2012 ($764 million). The sales total was 19.9% higher than May 2012 and 14 % above the peak of the market in May 2008.”

COLIN GLEADELL AT THE TELEGRAPH analyzed the NY contemporary auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s—approximately 1,100 works with cumulative a pre-estimate of $717. Million. “Add another 195 contemporary works from Phillips, and the estimate for that week’s auctions rises to between $807 million and $1.1 billion (£701 million). The sales are typically top-heavy, with 16 works estimated at $10 million or more, many of them carrying guarantees that ensure that they will sell. That’s just 1.5 per cent of lots, accounting for 42 per cent of the total value of the sales.”

MEI MOSES RELEASED ITS “2013 May Major NY Sales Return Analysis.” Of 282 lots sold at Sotheby’s and Christie’s (CONT/IMP-MOD), the average compound annual returns (CAR) was 7.3% (10% lower than historical values). In terms of the entire market, the “World All Art Index” declined 6% in May 2013, underperforming equities.

THE MAJOR DISCREPANCY IN AUCTION RESULTS between the two categories (CONT/IMP-MOD) has to do with increased demand for contemporary and decreased supply of quality Imp-Mod works. Artemundi Global Fund’s report elaborated: “During the Post-War & Contemporary week the total amount sold was $1,109,173,150 more than double at the Impressionist & Modern art week that achieved $478,618,500. These results confirm the generalized market intuition that the demand is shifting towards more Contemporary Art. However most of the Contemporary lots in these auctions were from blue-chip contemporary artists… The reason behind this shift is the shortage of high quality artworks in the Impressionist & Modern Art sector, where few surprises were achieved. In general, if prices in these two art sectors keep increasing it is because the demand is growing at a faster rate than the offer, which is almost fixed for some artists. Overall Sotheby’s sales were better in the Impressionist & Modern art sector while Christie’s was unbeatable in the Contemporary Art market.”



THE 8TH EDITION OF ART BEIJING took place May 1–3 and featured 150 mostly Chinese-based art galleries and institutions. Attendance numbers/sales figures have yet to be released.

THE 8TH EDITION OF SM’ART transpired May 2–6, 2013 in Marseille-Provence. The opening inauguration welcomed 4,200 people and attracted nearly 20,000 visitors over four days.

ART HK, RENAMED ARTBASEL HONG KONG under its new ownership took place May 23–May 26. Critics proclaimed that the fair was better organized as part of the Swiss-based Art Basel franchise. Even with crowd control, the fair welcomed 60,000 visitors. Major sales highlights include: Jiang Xu’s “Eight Tall Sunflowers” series and Wang Huaiqing’s “Chinese Emperor – 1”, both sold for $2.6 Million at Tina Keng Gallery; several sculptures by Fernando Botero sold for $3.5M at Galerie Gmurzynska; and, a large-scale painting by Yayoi Kusama sold for $2M at Victoria Miro’s booth.

HONG KONG REMAINS THE MAIN art world destination for Asia, Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore following closely behind. HK is an ideal place to do business location and tax-wise but restrictions apply. Art Market Monitor recently reported: “A severe property crunch [means] that Hong Kong cannot support the profusion of side fairs crucial to achieving the full-whirl ‘Miami effect.’”

ON MAY 25, CHRISTIE’S HELD its Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art sales series. According to the press-release, the four auctions “achieved HK$ 754,152,250/US$ 97,662,716, and sold in excess of 81% by lot and 91% by value.”

SOTHEBY’S HELD ITS LATIN AMERICAN Art auction, May 28. The sale totaled $14.8 Million, led by Joaquín Torres-García’s “Composition Constructive,” which sold for $1.4 Million. According to the press release, “Realism also ma[de] a strong showing, with works by Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Fernando Botero, Francisco Toledo, Dr. Atl, Angel Zárraga and Claiduo Bravo. Featured earlier works include one of Ferdinand Bellermann’s greatest masterpieces.”

CHRISTIE’S FOLLOWED SUIT with its LA art sales on May 29 and 30. The two auctions achieved a cumulative total of $21.3 Million (72% sold by lot, 75% by value). The top earner was Brazilian artist Candidi Portinari’s oil on canvas titled “Meninos Soltando Pipas”, which realized $1,443,750. Columbian megastar (and living) artist Fernando Botero’s bronze sculpture “Dancers”, brought in $1,143,750. Furthermore, the sales set nine new artist records.

IN LATE MAY, BBC REPORTED, “International investors now have their sights set on developing art centres like Kenya.” Furthermore, the news source noted that Bonhams is the only international auction house to hold specialized African art sales, especially in the contemporary category, helping cultivate the continent’s market since 2009. According to ArtTactic, “In recent years, Africa’s profile as an art market has risen considerably… Major interest within the African continent is focused in South Africa, especially Johannesburg, as well as major cities in Nigeria and North Africa."

Shireen Lohrasbe

Shireen holds a BBA in Design & Management from Parsons The New School for Design and an MA in Art Business from Sotheby's Institute of Art, New York. She has contributed to several online publications including Art Observed, Quintessentially Art, and Whitewall Magazine. Shireen is a regular art market contributor at Whitehot Magazine.

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