By the Numbers: A Breakdown of Results from Christie’s London 20th/21st Century Evening Auction, March 2024 

Let the numbers tell the story.

Auctioneer Adrien Meyer sells David Hockney's California at Christie's 20th/21st Century sale in London. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s pulled ahead in London’s spring auction week, with its back-to-back 20th/21st Century and Art of the Surreal sales on March 7, which brought in £196.7 million ($251.8 million), including fees. The marathon evening of sales followed a rather tepid 20th Century and contemporary event at Phillips, which scraped in at its presale low estimate of £13.6 million ($17 million), and a thoroughly average £100 million ($127 million) sale at Sotheby’s the evening prior. 

But let’s compare apples to apples. The higher total reflects the fact that Christie’s had a much bigger crop to bring to market—in its 20th/21st Century sale alone it offered 87 works (including withdrawn lots), versus Sotheby’s 70. (An additional 25 works were offered in the Art of the Surreal sale, but we’ll get to those later.) Of the 87, around two-thirds hammered within estimate, while just under 20 percent hammered below their estimate. Seven lots were withdrawn from the sale—a fair shake better than the 11 withdrawn from Sotheby’s—and 11 failed to find buyers, resulting in a 79-percent sell-through rate.  

Consistent across all the sales this week, however, was the fact that pricier lots were slow to move. The leading lot at Christie’s 20th/21st Century sale, Francis Bacon’s Landscape near Malabata, Tangier, fared well, hammering at £16.8 million ($21.5 million), on a £15 million low estimate, after some slow and measured bidding. But Hockney’s California (1965), unseen in public for the last 40 years and carrying an on-request estimate, received only a few bids before it hammered without fanfare at £16 million ($20.3 million). After the sale, the auction house confirmed the low estimate for the work was, conveniently enough, around £16 million. 

But that’s enough chitchat, let’s see the stats…

Francis Bacon, Landscape near Malabata, Tangier(1963).

Francis Bacon, Landscape near Malabata, Tangier (1963). Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd. 2024.


Total Sales After Fees: £137.7 million ($174.8 million) 

Total Sales of Equivalent Sale Last Year: £128 million with fees ($163.9 million) 

Hammer Total: £113.7 million ($144.5 million) 

Top Seller: Francis Bacon’s Landscape near Malabata, Tangier (1963), £19,630,000 ($24.9 million) 

Lots on Offer: 87 

Lots Withdrawn: 7 

Lots Sold: 69 

Lots Bought In: 11 

Sell-through Rate: 79 percent 

Sell-through Rate Excluding Withdrawals: 86 percent 

Presale Low Estimate: £121.2 million ($153.9 million) 

Presale Low Estimate Excluding Withdrawals: £111.6 million ($141.7 million) 

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate: -£7.4 million (-$9.4 million) 

Hammer Total vs. Presale Low Estimate (revised after withdrawals): +£2.1 million (+$2.7 million) 

Lots Guaranteed: 25 

Lots With House Guarantees: 2 

Lots With Third-Party Guarantees: 23 

Total Low Estimate of Withdrawn Lots: £9.5 million ($12.2 million) 

Total Low Estimate of Guaranteed Lots: £780,000 ($990,600) (< 1 percent of total presale low estimate) 

Total Low Estimate of Third-Party Guaranteed Lots: £74.4 million ($94.5 million) (61 percent of total presale low estimate) 

Quote of the Night: “The red hat is definitely the first thing I notice when looking at this painting,” said auctioneer Yü-Ge Wang, who took over the rostrum from Adrien Meyer for the last half of the sale. The cheeky quip about Nicholas Party’s Back with a Red Hat—which, in line with its title, features a back-turned figure in a red hat with a bare bum—elicited giggles from an otherwise beleaguered crowd, whose own bums were growing sore from sitting through two hours (and counting) of bidding.

Parting Shot: Demand for Damien Hirst was hard to rustle up, with his priciest work in the sale (The Warrior and the Bear, estimated between £800,000 and £1.2 million) withdrawn in advance and two other, smaller works selling at or below their low estimates. Earlier in the day, the artist’s Prodigal was bought in at £480,000 ($615,000) at Phillips. Two new records were set for women artists, however: Allison Katz’s Snowglobe sold for £277,200 ($355,000) against a low estimate of £40,000, and Jadé Fadojutimi’s The Woven Warped Garden of Ponder sold for £1.5 million ($1.9 million)—just a hair over her previous record, set at Phillips last November.

Next Sale Up: Christie’s Art of the Surreal evening sale on March 7 followed by the house’s Modern and contemporary day sales on March 8.

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