Here’s Your Go-To Guide to the Biggest New York Art Auctions in May 2023

Four major auction houses host 20 sales from May 9 through May 19.

Louise Bourgeois, Spider (1996), part of Sotheby's Contemporary Evening Auction on May 18 (estimate $30—$40 million). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

For some, spring hasn’t sprung in New York until auctions are underway. Fortunately, the annual sales kick off this week. Just about every major name from the last century will be represented, with total sales volume likely in the nine or possibly 10 figures.

We’ve put together a handy guide to the top lots to watch across the nearly two dozen sales.


Tuesday, May 9

Otto Dix, The War (Der Krieg) (51 works). Courtesy of Bonhams.

Otto Dix, The War (Der Krieg), estimate $300,000–$500,000. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples
Bonhams New York | 580 Madison Avenue
May 9 | 11 a.m.
Featuring: Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Joan Miró

In its spring sale of prints and multiples, Bonhams is offering dependably vibrant printed Pop works. Yet, paradoxically, the highlight of the sale is Otto Dix’s Der Krieg (The War). Made in 1924, the monumental work—a series of 50 etchings, drypoints, and aquatints—is a searing indictment of World War I, in which Dix served as a machine gunner on Germany’s Eastern Front. Controversial when it was first published, it is now recognized as a masterpiece of German Expressionism.


Thursday, May 11


Masterpieces from the S.I. Newhouse Collection
Christie’s New York | 20 Rockefeller Plaza
May 11 | 6:30 p.m.
Featuring: Willem de Kooning, Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns

Christie’s is auctioning off 16 masterworks from the collection of the late S.I. Newhouse, former chairman of Condé Nast, the media empire that publishes The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Architectural Digest. It’s the third sale from the publishing tycoon’s collection since he passed in 2017; Christie’s sold 57 works in 2019 for $475.9 million. Newhouse began collecting in the 1950s, amassing works by some of the most important artists of the 20th century, many of which he donated to museums around the world, including MoMA. In the house’s upcoming auction, a Picasso portrait of Lee Miller (L’Arlésienne), a Francis Bacon self-portrait, and Cy Twombly’s (Untitled) Bolsena (1969) are among the showstoppers.


20th Century Evening Sale
Christie’s New York | 20 Rockefeller Plaza
May 11 | 7 p.m.
Featuring: Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois, Henri Rousseau

Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale chronicles the art world’s shifting tastes from the 1880s to the 1980s, spanning the work of Impressionist artists in Paris to the Abstract Expressionists of New York. The sale takes an in-depth look at the oeuvres of David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, and Morris Louis, as well as those of important women artists, including Lee Krasner and Joan Mitchell. One of the star lots is Henri Rousseau’s Les Flamants (Flamingos), a French Post-Impressionist work from 1907 in the self-taught artist’s signature flat yet vivid dreamlike style (est. $20 million–$30 million). Many of the works in the sale belonged to the collections of Paul G. Allen and Jacques and Emy Cohenca, among other notable art collectors.


Monday, May 15

Yayoi Kusama, <em>Pumpkin</em> (1993). Courtesy of Christie's.

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin (1993), estimate $4 million–$6 million. Courtesy of Christie’s.

21st Century Evening Sale
Christie’s New York | 20 Rockefeller Plaza
May 15 | 7 p.m.
Featuring: Cecily Brown, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama

Christie’s taps into the seismic shifts of the late 20th century and beginning of the next with a sale of major works focusing on the contemporary age. Key pieces include Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1983 triptych El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile), an evocative celebration of African cultures, and Jeff Koons’s Gazing Ball (2015–2019), a riff on Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of the Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain (1653). Contemporary pioneers like Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Louis Fratino, Emma Webster, and Robin F. Williams round out the sale, which wouldn’t be complete without a Kusama pumpkin.


Tuesday, May 16

René Magritte, <em>L'Empire des lumières</em> (1951). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

René Magritte, L’Empire des lumières (1951), estimate $35 million–$55 million. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The Mo Ostin Collection Evening Auction
Sotheby’s New York | 1334 York Avenue
May 16 | 6 p.m.
Featuring: René Magritte, Joan Mitchell, Cy Twombly

Mo Ostin was a towering figure in the music industry, a record executive who led Warner Bros. Records from the early 1970s well into the 1990s. He signed some of the most successful musicians in history, including Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead, Madonna, and R.E.M. Ostin himself was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. His art collection boasts blue-chip names like Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning. Two Magritte works—L’Empire des lumières (with a $35 million–$55 million estimate) and Le Domaine d’Arnheim ($15 million–$25 million)—lead what promises to be a blockbuster sale for Sotheby’s.


Modern Evening Auction
Sotheby’s New York | 1334 York Avenue
May 16 | 7:00 p.m.
Featuring: Gustav Klimt, Claude Monet, and Mark Rothko

Composed of canonical works of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Modernism, and Abstract Expressionism, Sotheby’s Modern sale unites the most important themes of the last 150 years. This year, the sale spotlights the collections of Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem, Ambroise Vollard, and Frances Wells Magee, among others, bringing together masters such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Rothko, with a 1959 example of his Color Field paintings, one of his best-known works.


Wednesday, May 17

Banksy, <em>Banksquiat. Boy and Dog in Stop and Search</em> (2018). Courtesy of Phillips.

Banksy, Banksquiat. Boy and Dog in Stop and Search (2018), estimate $8 million-$12 million. Courtesy of Phillips.


20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Phillips New York | 432 Park Avenue
May 17 | 5 p.m.
Featuring: Banksy, Noah Davis, Robert Rauschenberg

Ever-bankable, as it were, Banksy leads this contemporary art sale from Phillips, which features a mix of modern, postwar, and contemporary art. The British artist’s Banksquiat. Boy and Dog in Stop and Search (2018)—a stenciled image on the side of the Barbican Centre, where an exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat had just launched—could fetch eight figures. The work, featuring the two central figures from Basquiat’s 1982 painting Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump being frisked by London police, is a critique of Britain’s stop and search policy. The sale also includes pieces by Yayoi Kusama, Helen Frankenthaler, and Julien Nguyen.


A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection Part I
Christie’s New York | 20 Rockefeller Plaza
May 17 | 7 p.m.
Featuring: Christopher Wool, Gerhard Richter, Willem de Kooning

Art that once belonged to the late Bostonian real estate mogul, hotelier, and collector Gerald Fineberg is expected to fetch more than $270 million at Christie’s New York with a two-part sale, evening and day (May 18). The auction features work from some of the most important artists of the past 100 years—in all, around 220 works by the likes of Joan Mitchell, Man Ray, Alex Katz, Alice Neel, Barkley Hendricks, Ruth Asawa, and Lee Krasner. Many of the artists in Fineberg’s collection are women, artists of color, and LGBTQ artists.


Thursday, May 18

Yoshitomo Nara, Haze Days (1998). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Yoshitomo Nara, Haze Days (1998), estimate $12 million–$18 million. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The Now Evening Auction
Sotheby’s New York | 1334 York Avenue
May 18 | 6 p.m.
Featuring: Jadé Fadojutimi, Simone Leigh, Yoshitomo Nara

Celebrating the art of today, and providing a platform for new and emerging artists, Sotheby’s Now Evening Auction features cutting-edge works by Kerry James Marshall, Nicole Eisenman, and Justin Caguiat. Yoshitomo Nara’s Haze Days (1998), a towering six-foot canvas picturing a girl with her head wrapped in a bandage-cum-bow, is the leader here with an estimate of $12 million to $18 million.


Contemporary Evening Auction
Sotheby’s New York | 1334 York Avenue
May 18 | 7 p.m.
Featuring: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, Gerhard Richter

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale showcases artists working during the second half of the 20th century, from Post-War abstraction in America and Europe to Color Field painting, Minimalism, Pop Art, and postmodern pursuits of the 1980s and 1990s. First of an edition of six, Bourgeois’s monumental bronze Spider (1996)—which formerly belonged to the Fundação Itaú in São Paulo, Brazil—is a top draw, with an estimate of $30 million to $40 million.


Additional Sales:

Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale
Christie’s New York | 20 Rockefeller Plaza
May 12 | 10 a.m. | 258 lots

Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper Sale
Christie’s New York | 20 Rockefeller Plaza
May 13 | 10 a.m. | 108 lots

Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale
Christie’s New York
| 20 Rockefeller Plaza
May 13 | 1:30 p.m. | 191 lots

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale (Morning Session)
Phillips New York | 432 Park Avenue
May 16 | 10 a.m. | 160 lots

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale (Afternoon Session)
Phillips New York | 432 Park Avenue
May 16 | 2 p.m. | 192 lots

Modern Day Auction
Sotheby’s New York | 1334 York Avenue
May 17 | 10:00 a.m. | 2 sessions | 295 lots

Impressionist & Modern Art
Bonhams New York | 580 Madison Avenue
May 17 | 1 p.m. | 53 lots

A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection Part II
Christie’s New York | 20 Rockefeller Plaza
May 18 | 10 a.m. | 149 lots

Post-War & Contemporary
Bonhams New York | 580 Madison Avenue
May 18 | 4 p.m. | 71 lots

Contemporary Day Auction
Sotheby’s New York | 1334 York Avenue
May 19 | 10 a.m. | 2 sessions | 348 lots


We hope you’ve enjoyed our Go-to Guide to New York’s May auctions. Check back later this week for Artnet News Pro’s Insiders’ Guide to the sales, packed with behind-the-scenes insights and tips for navigating the lots on offer. In the meantime, click here to subscribe to Artnet News Pro.


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