Heritage Breaks Into New York’s Modern and Contemporary Art Market With Planned Auction

Will the market find room for a fourth auction house?

Andy Warhol, $ (Quadrant), 1982. Photo: Heritage Auctions.
Andy Warhol, $ (Quadrant) (1982). Courtesy of Heritage Auctions.
Ai Weiwei, <em>Surveillance Camera</em> (2010). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Ai Weiwei, Surveillance Camera (2010).
Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Add another date to your fall auction calendar: Heritage Auctions is breaking into New York’s modern and contemporary market for the first time, with a sale scheduled for October 28. Highlights are expected to include works by Ai Weiwei, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg.

Heritage often makes headlines with its offbeat, pop culture-driven lots, like the concept art for Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Caitlyn Jenner‘s 1984 Olympic torch, or vintage Hollywood horror movie posters. The company has also expanded its sales of domain names and luxury handbags, but does also deal in more traditional fine art.

“Heritage Auctions is increasingly attracting important Modern and Contemporary artworks, and the time has come to bring it these auctions to the New York stage,” said Leon Benrimon, director of modern and contemporary art in New York, in a statement. “We have a carefully curated selection of works to perfectly capitalize on our recent New York and international expansions and capture collector’s attention in a very real way.”

Andy Warhol, <em>$ (Quadrant)</em>, 1982. Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Andy Warhol, $ (Quadrant), 1982.
Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Recent hires by Phillips have some in the art world speculating that the auction house is looking to increase its share of the modern market—but is there room for a fourth horse in the race? A comparison of the big three shows that Phillips is still tens of millions of dollars behinds the $200 million figures that powerhouses Christie’s and Sotheby’s are capable of bringing in, with just a $30 million total at the most recent spring sales.

In May, Heritage’s modern and contemporary sale in Dallas was led by Ed Ruscha’s 99% Angel, 1% Devil, a 1983 work on paper that fetched $341,000, well over the top estimate of just $120,000. The night’s second biggest sale was a 1953 Marc Chagall oil painting that brought in just $275,000, compared to an expected $300,000–500,000.

Overall, the house made $4.23 million on the night. The respectable line-up planned for next month lacks big ticket items that can compete on a dollar-by-dollar basis with Heritage’s competitors, but looks to be a good start for the company as it tries to break into the already crowded field.

Perhaps working to Heritage’s advantage is its head start on the other houses: Phillips has scheduled its evening contemporary sale for November 8; Christie’s has its post-war and contemporary and Impressionist and modern sales November 10 and 12, respectively; and Sotheby’s has locked in November 5 for Impressionist and modern and the 11th for contemporary, almost two weeks after the Heritage auction.

At Heritage’s New York debut, the night’s biggest sale could be Robert Motherwell‘s Untitled (Ochre with Black Line), (1972–73/1974), coming to the market for the first time since the year it was made and purchased by a private collection. Heritage is looking for a $800,000–1.2 million sale.

Mel Ramos, <em>A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows</em></a> (1962). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Mel Ramos, A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows (1962).
Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Heritage is also offering Mel Ramos’s A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows (1962), a portrait of superhero Batman that the artist appropriately traded to the consignor for a stash of comic books. It could bring in $80,000–120,000, which seems like a pretty impressive return on investment.

Rauschenberg’s Van Vleck Series VI (1978) is anticipated to be hammered down at $120,000–180,000, while Warhol’s $ (Quadrant), 1982, among several unique editions by the artist on hand at the sale, carries a presale estimate of $80,000–120,000.

Ai’s offering, 2010’s Surveillance Camera, a marble monument to the surveillance state, should sell for $400,000–600,000.

Modern and Contemporary Art Auction, Part I: New York,” will be held at Heritage Auctions, New York, on October 28. A preview will be held October 26–28 at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, 2 East 79th Street.


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