Hot Lots: 6 Works That Upended Expectations During New York’s Day Sales

We looked for clues about how the market is shifting.

Monet's Les bords de la Seine près de Vétheuil at Christie's New York. Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Much ink has been spilled about the hot lots—and cold ones— in November’s marquee evening sales in New York, which reflected slower demand in an atmosphere of market caution, with the nearly $2 billion takings across the Big Three houses down some 30 percent on 2022’s equivalent season.

One explanation that has been proffered is that tastes are changing across generations, with art advisor Caroline Sayan telling the Financial Times: “millennials don’t want to buy what their parents are selling.”

Could that be the reason for the just-within-estimate performance notched by the prime offerings of the season in the Emily Fisher Landau collection, which was heavy on postwar fare?

A glance at the results from the less glamorous but informative day sales—the junior leagues, if you will—and which works vaulted past their expectations may tell us more about where the market appetite is heading.

Below, we’ve selected six lots that exceeded expectations, and broken down what it means for the art market at large.


Salvo, Prima primavera (1996)

Salvo, <i>Prima primavera</i> (1996). Courtesy: Phillips

Salvo, Prima primavera (1996). Courtesy: Phillips

Auction: Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Art day sale, November 15, 2023

Estimate: $60,000 to $80,000

Sold for: $495,300

Just one month after a cartoonish, candy-color landscape by the late Italian artist known as Salvo (1947-2015) soared to $841,019 in London, three other exuberantly-hued, cutesy paintings obliterated their estimates in New York. Two sold at Phillips, and one at Christie’s. Each surpassed $400,000.

What’s the hype? The artist is being viewed as a precursor to Nicolas Party, only much less expensive and with a possibility of a bigger arbitrage. Whether it is a temporary “pump and dump” situation or a real market remains an open question.

Gladstone Gallery, which represents the estate, has a solo show by Salvo at its Brussels gallery on view through December 22, with prices for most paintings in the $200,000–$250,000 range. Next week, a large-scale Il Mattino (The Morning), described as the artist’s “masterpiece,” will test the market further at Christie’s in Hong Kong, where it’s estimated at $231,000 to $359,000.

—Katya Kazakina


Jason Rhoades, Three-Wheel Waggon-Wheel Chandelier (2004)

Jason Rhoades, Three-Wheel Waggon-Wheel Chandelier (2004). Image courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Jason Rhoades, Three-Wheel Waggon-Wheel Chandelier (2004). Image courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

Auction: Christie’s Postwar and contemporary art day sale, November 10

Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000

Sold for: $1 million

Jason Rhoades’s Three-Wheel Waggon-Wheel Chandelier will be familiar to anyone who was wowed by solo shows like “Tijuanatanjierchandelier” at David Zwirner in 2019 and the solo artist show at the Brant Foundation in Greenwich, Connecticut in 2018, the latter of which included this particular work.

The recognizable tangle of wires and slang words crafted out of neon-signage is emblematic of the artist’s late, large-scale sculptural installations. According to David Zwirner, which represented the artist during his lifetime, and now his estate: “Until his untimely death in 2006 at age 41, Rhoades carried out a continual assault on aesthetic conventions and the rules governing the art world, wryly subverting those conditions by integrating them into his practice.”

The stellar result, including premiums, nearly doubled Rhoades’s previous auction record. The second highest-selling work, according to the Artnet Price Database, is Down Under (2003), another mixed-media installation that sold for $480,000 in 2018.

—Eileen Kinsella

Joan Mitchell, Pastel (1991)

Joan Mitchell, Pastel, 1991. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Auction: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art evening sale, November 15

Estimate: $250,000 to $350,000

Sold for: $825,500

This season, Sotheby’s made out well by selling off selected works from the collection of famed art dealer John Cheim, the co-founder of the storied New York gallery Cheim and Read, which just announced its imminent closure after nearly 30 years in business. While this auction cycle’s offerings were tepid on the whole, many works from Cheim’s collection exceeded expectations, including this work on paper, which was created in the same year that Cheim’s other larger-than-life offering from Mitchell, Sunflowers, was made. That painting achieved $27.9 million, making it the second-most expensive work by the artist to come to public auction.

The distinguishing factor of the Cheim collection was his eye for beauty on any scale,” said Kelsey Leonard, head of Sotheby’s contemporary evening auction. According to Leonard, there were seven bidders competing for the prize. “It’s really remarkable, given how so many people have traditionally prioritized the 1950’s and 1960’s” she added. “There was such competitive bidding.”

As the sale of Pastel illustrates, the current market interest isn’t reserved solely for Mitchell’s larger paintings. This 23-by 13-inch work on paper shattered expectations a few times over, more than doubling its high estimate of $350,000. “Date is important and scale is important,” continued Leonard. “But beyond almost anything else, beauty is important.” 

—Annie Armstrong


Scott Kahn, Twilight (1982)

Scott Kahn, <i>Twilight</i> (1982). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Scott Kahn, Twilight (1982). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Auction: Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Art day sale, November 10

Estimate: $150,000 to $250,000

Sold for: $819,000

Collectors continue to clamor for Scott Kahn’s dream-like, jewel-toned landscapes depicting solitary figures and objects.

This charming twilight scene, anchored by a little house in the prairie set against a big sky, soared past its presale estimates at Christie’s this month, boosted by “the art market’s hunger for quality Surrealism and Magical Realism,” according to Allison Immergut, a co-head of the auction house’s day sale.

Kahn’s paintings have been particularly popular with Asian collectors, accounting for six of the top 10 prices, according to the Artnet Price Database.

The Long Museum in Shanghai acquired a number of paintings by the septuagenerian artist, whose market acclaim came late in life, and has a scheduled exhibition opening next April. It will be followed by Kahn’s solo show at Almine Rech gallery in Paris in October.

—Katya Kazakina


Claude Monet, Les bords de la Seine près de Vétheuil (1881)

Claude Monet, Les bords de la Seine près de Vétheuil (1881). Image courtesy Christie's.

Claude Monet, Les bords de la Seine près de Vétheuil (1881). Image courtesy Christie’s.

Auction: Christie’s Impressionist and modern art day sale, November 11

Estimate: $1.5 million to $2.5 million

Sold for: $3.4 million

This season showed that even in economic uncertainty, the demand for Claude Monet is undented. At Christie’s 20th century evening sale on November 9, a waterlily painting, Le bassin aux nymphéas (ca. 1917–18) sold for $74 million, along with Sandviken, Norvège, effet de neige (1895) for $6.7 million. A scant four nights later, at Sotheby’s November 13 modern art evening sale alone, four works sold for nearly $70 million. That’s a cool $150 million in just two nights. 

The result for this work on paper in the day sale shows the demand for Monet’s landscapes extends to lower price points, as Les cords de la Seine près de Vétheuil (1881), which came on the block at Christie’s day sale on November 11. The work had not been seen in public for nearly a century, according to the house. It belongs to an important series of works depicting the landscape around the village where Monet lived and worked between 1878 and 1881.

The work “exemplifies the artist’s luminous palettes, airy brushwork and atmospheric feel,” said Margaux Morel, Christie’s head of the Impressionist and modern day and works on paper sales. “Beyond its artistic qualities, the present work had remained in the same private family collection for over 60 years, adding to its panache. This incredible result, achieved thanks to international bidding from four separate collectors, demonstrates the demand for Monet artworks of quality, and the strength of the market in this sector as a whole.”

—Eileen Kinsella


Charline von Heyl, Dodo (2005)

Charline von Heyl, Dodo, 2005. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Auction: Sotheby’s Contemporary day sale, November 16

Estimate: $150,000 to $200,000

Sold for: $444,500

The thirst for formerly-overlooked female painters continues, as Charline von Heyl’s frenetic canvas Dodo proves, selling for a staggering $444,500—more than doubling the tableau’s high estimate. The artist has seen steady interest in her work this year, as a similar work titled Doublebeast sold for $381,000 at Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated auction this past March, and just last year, her record was set in London for an untitled piece that went for about $598,000, adjusted from pounds.

In tandem with the market, Von Heyl has seen renewed curatorial interest in her work, as just this summer, a piece by von Heyl was curated into Gary Garrels’s smash summer show at Gagosian in London, “To Bend The Ear of the Outer World”, alongside other prominent names in both contemporary and modern abstraction such as Mary Heilmann, Cecily Brown, Gerhard Richter, and Albert Oehlen. 

—Annie Armstrong

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