By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results From Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction, May 2024

Let the numbers tell the story.

Oliver Barker at Sotheby's Evening Contemporary Sale in New York on May 13, 2024. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Amid a decidedly more cautious mood in the art market, Sotheby’s nearly hit its mark on Monday evening at its sale of contemporary art, with a hammer total of $201.1 million, just shy of its revised $217.6 million low estimate.

Throughout the affair, bidders were discerning about which artworks they wanted to fight for—and what they wanted to pay. The sale, overseen by auctioneer Oliver Barker, started off with a bang, when Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s: The French Collection Part II #9 (1991), a fabric piece by the late Faith Ringgold, came on the block. Bidders chased it from an opening price of $500,000 to well over $1 million, setting a new record for the artist.

Read on for a breakdown of the sale.

Total Sales After Fees: $234.6 million

Total Sales of Equivalent Sale Last Year: $167.5 million

Hammer Total: $201,060,000

Top Seller: Francis Bacon, Portrait of George Dyer Crouching (1966) sold for $27.7 million

Lots on Offer: 35

Lots Withdrawn: 0

Lots Sold: 32

Lots Bought In: 3

Sell-through Rate: 91.4 percent

Sell-through Rate After Withdrawals: 91.4 percent

Presale Low Estimate: $217.6 million

Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawals: $217.6 million

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: -$16.5 million

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate (revised after withdrawals): -$16.5 million

Lots Guaranteed: 24

Lots With House Guarantees: 1

Lots With Third-Party Guarantees: 23

Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: None

Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: $174.5 million (80 percent of total presale low estimate)

Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: $170.5 million (78 percent of total presale low estimate)

Lasting Memory: It was gratifying to see such intense demand for the work of Faith Ringgold, who died last month at 93. The piece, depicting a dinner party at Gertrude Stein’s apartment, went for $1.57 million, more than triple Ringgold’s previous record of $461,000.

Parting Shot: This was the first major sale in quite a while with no withdrawals, either before or during the action. However, one downside of that was watching Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #126 (1984) failing to sell—one of three works that failed on the block. Barker opened the bidding at $13 million, and the piece was announced as “passed,” or bought in, shortly after.

Next Sale Up: Phillips modern and contemporary art evening sale arrives tonight at 5 p.m., an early start that will allow people to then head over to Christie’s for a pair of sales.

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