By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results From Sotheby’s Ultra-Contemporary ‘The Now’ Sale, May 2024

Let the numbers tell the story.

Auctioneer Phyllis Kao at "The Now" sale at Sotheby's New York on May 13, 2024. Image courtesy Sotheby's.

It was a busy night on Monday at Sotheby’s in New York, with consecutive sales of contemporary art kick offing the spring season, starting with an offering of ultra-contemporary material as part of the house’s  “The Now” series. Buyers chased a small number of the 17 works that were brought to the block, pushing up prices, while others finished near their low estimates. Read on for a breakdown of the sale.

A mostly black and white color painting with two figures sitting on a brick wall underneath pink hearts

Kerry James Marshall, Vignette #6 (2005). Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Total Sales After Fees: $32.7 million

Total Sales of Equivalent Sale Last Year: $37.2 million

Hammer Total: $26.9 million

Top Seller: Kerry James Marshall, Vignette #6 (2005), for $7.8 million.

Lots on Offer: 18

Lots Withdrawn: 1

Lots Sold: 16

Lots Bought In: 1

Sell-through Rate: 89 percent

Sell-through Rate After Withdrawals: 94 percent

Presale Low Estimate: $30.2 million

Presale Low Estimate After Withdrawals: $24 million

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: -$3.3 million

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate (revised after withdrawals): +2.9 million

Lots Guaranteed: 6 (including the lot that was withdrawn)

Lots With House Guarantees: 1 (withdrawn)

Lots With Third-Party Guarantees: 5

Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: $6 million

Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: $17 million (56 percent of original total presale low estimate)

Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: $11 million (46 percent of revised total presale low estimate)

Quote of the Night: “Everyone gets a turn,” auctioneer Phyllis Kao said as she kept up eight eager bidders chasing Lucy Bull’s painting 16:10 (2020) to a new record of $1.8 million. There were also eight bidders lined up for Justin Caguiat’s The saint is never busy (2019), which tripled its estimate to sell for over $1 million, also an artist record.

Lasting Memory: Some audience members were taken aback at the last-minute withdrawal of a major Cecily Brown painting that the house had directly guaranteed. And the failure of a work by current Venice Biennale star Jeffrey Gibson to reach its low $150,000 estimate was a surprising buy-in.

Next Up: Tuesday night brings a sale of modern and contemporary art at Phillips. Meanwhile, Christie’s will host an auction of works from the Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz collection, followed by its 21st-century sale.

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