The Back Room: Klimt in Context

This week: looking at London's June auction week's mixed signals, how are Henry Street galleries holding up, Kennedy Yanko’s so-called paint skins, and much more.

Helena Newman auctioneering Gustav Klimt's record-breaking Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) by Gustav Klimt. Photo by Haydon Perrior. Image courtesy Sotheby's. Illustration by Artnet News.

Every Friday, Artnet News Pro members get exclusive access to the Back Room, our lively recap funneling only the week’s must-know intel into a nimble read you’ll actually enjoy.

This week in the Back Room: we look at where London auction week will leave us, Adam Lindemann’s Montauk moves, a stand-out sensual sculpture from rising art star Kennedy Yanko, and much more—all in a 6-minute read (1,652 words).


Top of the Market

Record Retort

Gustav Klimt, Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) (1917-18). Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

Gustav Klimt, Dame mit Fächer (Lady with a Fan) (1917–18). Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

The record-smashing sale of Gustav Klimt’s final portrait earlier this week garnered cheers from art-market observers, and much ink was spilled in art and mainstream media alike. Dame mit Fächer (Lady With a Fan) became the most expensive artwork to sell at auction in Europe—and the priciest Klimt recorded in a public sale—when it traded for a premium-inclusive £85.3 million ($108.4 million) in an evening sale at Sotheby’s London on June 27.

But the headlines do not exactly capture the larger picture.

As Artnet’s Eileen Kinsella wrote right after the sale concluded, the house’s estimate “in excess of £65 million,” already cued the work up to pierce the record—the £40.9 million ($80.4 million) sale of Le basin aux nymphéas by Claude Monet at Christie’s London, which had stood as the high-water mark for 15 years—and it was backed by a third-party guarantee, so the picture would have sold no matter what. It was hammered down at £74 million ($93.5 million), an undoubtedly respectable sum, and surely a boon for Sotheby’s. The last time the new record-setter hit the block, back in 1994, it had also set a new benchmark for the artist, with a $11.6 million sale at Sotheby’s New York.

But the performance of the star lot perhaps belied some of the other realities of the temperature of London’s summer sales, seeing as…

  • The Klimt alone accounted for nearly half the sales total of the Modern and Contemporary sale where it was offered. 
  • It was the only work with an eight-figure estimate on offer. The second-highest price was the £9.6 million ($12.2 million) paid for Lucian Freud’s Night Interior (1968–69).
  • Several other works were passed or hammered under their low estimates.

And it’s worth remembering that elsewhere in London’s summer auction season, the results were far from perfect…

  • Sotheby’s The Now sale of ultra-contemporary art, which took place just before the Modern and Contemporary auction, held slim pickings, which were further pared down before the sale even began when three lots were withdrawn, bringing the total on offer to 14.
  • Christie’s 20th/21st Century Sale on June 28 pulled in a less-than-stellar $81 million. It achieved a hammer total of £51.7 million ($65 million), which fell below the low end of expectations for the night of £55 million ($69.8 million) when adjusted to reflect two withdrawn lots.
  • At that same sale, more than 25 percent of the lotsw ent under hammer below the low estimate, including works from the Gerald Fineberg Collection, which just last month flopped at Christie’s New York and kicked off proclamations that the art market is actually, fully, really, in a correction. It appears the contagion has spread across the pond.


The Bottom Line

Auctions this week in London were being closely scrutinized, as our guest columnist Colin Gleadell wrote on Monday. Consider that presale estimates for the Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art on offer this week were between £267 million ($339.7 million) and £360 million ($458 million), excluding the buyer’s premium. The comparable figure at the 2015 peak was £600 million. With the jittery macroeconomic outlook rapidly transforming into a more urgent situation, complete with the word “recession” trending on Twitter earlier this week, is one broken record for Klimt so much cause for celebration? While it’s undoubtedly the case—and encouraging—that there is still top-level demand for masterworks that come up once in a lifetime, it’s important not to let one headline distort the picture.

[Read the Sales Report

[Read More on the Consignors



Paint Drippings

The latest Wet Paint tracks how Henry Street galleries are doing in the current economy, and maps dealer and collector Adam Lindemann’s Montauk holdings.

Here’s what else made a mark around the industry since last Friday morning…

Art Fairs

  • The 20th edition of Frieze London, this October, will host 160 galleries and include a new section called “Artist to Artist” which invites artists includingAnthea Hamilton, Tracey Emin, and Rirkrit Tiravanija to propose other artists for a solo booth during the fair. (Frieze)
  • The Art Dealers Association of America is bringing 78 exhibitors from its membership for the 35th edition of its annual Art Show, with several newcomers on the roster, including Anat Ebgi Gallery, Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, and Perrotin. (ARTnews)

Auction Houses

  • Of the 66 lots offered at Christie’s 20th/21st Century evening sale in London, 92 percent found buyers. However, the sale came with several letdowns of varying degrees, such as an esteemed Gerhard Richter piece that failed to sell. A quarter of the works went under hammer below the low estimate. (Artnet News)
  • Media magnate Michael Green and Berlin collector and heir to the Wella hair care estate Thomas Olbricht are among the consignors of works on offer in this week’s London auctions. (Artnet News)


  • Lyles and King has added award-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addarioto its roster, (Press release) Tanya Bonakdar Gallery has added Kimsoojato their stable, (Press release) and Daniel Turner is the latest artist to join Hauser & Wirth (Press release)
  • Jack Eisenberg has left the office of Amy Cappelazzo’s Art Intelligence Global to become a director at Matthew Brown. (Wet Paint)
  • Antonia Ruder will take over as director of Gallery Weekend Berlin this November,  succeeding Maike Cruse who has moved on to the head Art Basel’s Swiss fair. (Press release)


  • Yasufumi Nakamori, a curator at the Tate, has been named the director of New York’s Asia Society, a role left empty upon the departure of Michelle Yun Mapplethorpe last summer.  (New York Times)
  • Stephen Reily will be the founding director of Remuseum, a new initiative from the Crystal Bridges Museum. Remuseum bills itself as “an independent research project seeking to promote innovation among art museums across the United States.” (Press release)

Tech and Legal News

  • The daughter of Douglas A.J. Latchford will forfeit $12 million from his estate to settle a legal complaint against the late antiquities dealer regarding theft and sale of Cambodian antiquities. She will also hand over a 7th-century Vietnamese bronze sculpture Latchford bought with ill-gotten gains. (Artnet News)
  • Avant Arte has announced its partnership with the pseudonymous digital art patron, Cozomo de’ Medici, who will curate an ongoing artist programme. (Press Release)
  • Italian authorities have arrested Pasquale “Lino” Frongia, the artist suspected of forging a string of Old Master paintings that have appeared at high-profile museums and made millions at auction by passing as the work of Frans Hals, Orazio Gentileschi, Diego Velázquez, El Greco, and Parmigianino, among others. (Artnet News)

[Read More


“Why would we withdraw this wonderful Renoir?”


—Sotheby’s auctioneer Helena Newman during a brief mishap during the Modern and Contemporary sale wherein a lot was mistakenly announced as withdrawn. (Artnet News)


Work of the Week

Kennedy Yanko’s P2

Kennedy Yanko P2 (2019). Image courtesy Phillips.

Kennedy Yanko P2 (2019). Image courtesy Phillips.


Date:  2019


Seller: Private Collection


Estimate: £25,000 to £35,000 ($31,500 to $44,000)


Selling at:  Phillips London


Sale date: June 30, 2023


It’s no secret that artist Kennedy Yanko’s star has been on the rise recently. Known for her sensual sculptures made from so-called paint skins (sheaths of latex paint), she had an artist residency at the Rubell Collection in 2021, and premiered her largest sculpture to date at the 2022 edition of Art Basel in Switzerland last summer.

“I think Kennedy is one of the most important artists working today,” said dealer Robert Dimin, whose gallery hosted her first New York solo show in 2019, where this particular work was included. Since that show she “has grown to the super star status I saw in the work,” he said. “She has had tremendous museum support since 2019.” Dimin cited highlights including a show at the Parrish Museum last summer curated by Mickalene Thomas as well as a giant installation at the Brooklyn Museum last year.

Dimin says her work is extremely sought after on the primary market and small works are few and far between. He added that the estimate on P2 is “very fair [given] what her work on the primary market sells for.”

To date, just two other works by the artist have come to auction, according to the Artnet Price Database. Both performed well. Set Aflame and Warm (2022) sold for $176,400 at Sotheby’s this past September, blowing past the high $80,000 estimate; Antoinette (2019), sold for $100,800 at Sotheby’s this past November, exceeding the high $70,000 estimate.

—Eileen Kinsella



Thanks for joining us in the Back Room. See you next Friday.

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