Sotheby’s Reschedules Its Marquee New York Fall Sale to October as Auction Houses Work to Avoid Clashing With the US Election

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Black on Maroon) (1958). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

This year has caused auction houses to tear up the traditional rulebook—and they are tearing up the age-old sale calendar as well.

Sotheby’s announced today that it will move up its marquee fall sales in New York, traditionally held the second week of November, to the last week of October. The reshuffle will prevent the event from taking place in the weeks following what could be a messy, prolonged election. 

The auction house’s contemporary and Impressionist & Modern art evening sales will now be held October 28. In a testament to the anything-goes mentality of 2020, the house also plans to add an additional set of contemporary and Imp-Mod sales in New York in early December. 

The move follows a similar strategy adopted by Christie’s, which held its own New York fall sales this week. Alex Rotter, head of the 20th- and 21st-century art department at Christie’s, cited the forthcoming election and fears over a second wave as motivations for abandoning the traditional calendar during a press conference this week

With today’s announcement, Amy Cappellazzo, chairman of Sotheby’s Fine Art Division, echoed the sentiment (albeit in a slightly vaguer way): “Presenting our marquee sales of contemporary and Impressionist & Modern art throughout this fall allows us to maximize our sale schedule for the benefit of our clients,” she said in a statement. 

A spokesperson for Christie’s told Artnet News that it had not yet announced whether the company, like Sotheby’s, would be planning a round of sales in December, as has been rumored. 

Vincent Van Gogh, <i>Fleurs dans un verre</i> (1890). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Vincent Van Gogh, Fleurs dans un verre (1890). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Highlights of Sotheby’s newly announced contemporary art evening auction include a subdued painting by Mark Rothko, Untitled (Black on Maroon) (1958), which is estimated to fetch between $25 million and $35 million. Also of note: Clyfford Still’s fiery, nine-foot-tall painting 1957-G, which is expected to sell for between $12 million and $18 million.

Deaccessions from museums, which are taking advantage of a temporary relaxation of rules from the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), will also be closely watched. Brice Marden’s black and blue painting 3 (1987–88), which was controversially consigned by the Baltimore Museum of Art, is estimated to bring in $10 million to $15 million. Meanwhile, the Palm Springs Art Museum is offloading the monumental Carousel (1979) by Helen Frankenthaler, which carries a $2.5 million-to-$3.5 million estimate. 

As for the Impressionist & Modern art evening sale, Vincent van Gogh’s Fleurs dans un verre (1890) leads the way. The painting, completed less than three months before the artist’s death, is expected to bring in between $14 million to $18 million.

Offerings from both sales will go on display at Sotheby’s New York galleries (open by appointment only) on October 21. 

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