5 Takeaways From the May 2017 Auctions

A resurgence in sales and new auction records for Constantin Brancusi, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Peter Doig.

Christie's postwar and contemporary art evening sale, held in New York in May. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's.

Data collected from the artnet Price Database offers insight into the current state of the art market. In this monthly series, with the help of the artnet Price Database, we aim to fill you in on some of the more interesting facts, figures, and stories revealed by our data. In May, there was a resurgence in volume at the Impressionist and contemporary sales in New York, though totals were still off the frothy highs seen two and three years ago. New records were set for artists including Constantin Brancusi, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Peter Doig.

Peter Doig’s Rosedale (1991) at the Phillips salesroom. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)

1.At the height of the spring auction season, New York City once again was at the center stage of the action. Over $2 billion worth of fine and decorative art changed hands in one month, bringing in a 5 percent increase in total sales value year over year.

Jean Michel-Basquiat, Untitled (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

Jean Michel-Basquiat, Untitled (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

2. At the top of every auction story was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting Untitled, which sold for a stunning $110.5 million at Sotheby’s New York on May 18 during its contemporary art evening auction. The sale almost doubled the artist’s previous auction record of $57.3 million achieved one year ago at Christie’s New York, making him the most expensive American artist at auction.

Constantin Brancusi, La muse endormie (1913). Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Constantin Brancusi, La muse endormie (1913). Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

3. Other artists for whom new records were set this month: Constantin Brancusi, whose La muse endormie garnered $57.4 million at Christie’s New York; Peter Doig, whose Rosedale sold for $28.8 million at Phillips New York; and, Zao Wou-Ki, whose panting, 29.09.64 (1964), saw an auction high of $19.7 million at Christie’s Hong Kong.

Alexander Calder’s Two Red Petals in the Air (1958). Photo: courtesy of Phillips.


4. Both Christie’s New York and Sotheby’s New York saw over 20 percent growth in sales value year over year, totaling a formidable $1.6 billion in May. This number, however, is still well below the last peak in May 2015, when the two houses fetched a total of $2.8 billion.

The Apollo and Artemis Diamonds. Courtesy Sotheby's Geneva.

The Apollo and Artemis Diamonds. Courtesy Sotheby’s Geneva.

5. Sotheby’s Geneva sold the world’s most expensive pair of earrings at auction: the Apollo and Artemis, a 14.54 carats pear-shaped vivid blue diamond and a 16-carat pear-shaped pink diamond. Together, the pair achieved a record $57.4 million.



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