What Are the Best Bargains at This Week’s Postwar and Contemporary Sales?
From Martin Kippenberger to Joseph Cornell.
Are there any good value buys to be had at this week’s postwar and contemporary art sales? Price expectations are higher than ever. Where might significant shifts in value be taking place? Beginning tomorrow night at Sotheby’s, here are nine lots to watch.
1. Willem de Kooning: Clamdigger (1972)
Estimate: $25–35 million at the Postwar & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Christie’s New York, Wednesday, November 12, 6:30 p.m.
Okay, this is an exceptional work, but is it worth five times the existing record ($5.9 million including buyer’s premium for a De Kooning sculpture, albeit one that’s nearly half the size of Clamdigger)? Christie’s thinks so because the auctioneer has guaranteed it. But the market should be wary of guarantees which push prices up—particularly where the seller has a vested interest. In the case of this property, the Lisa de Kooning Trust is selling Clamdigger. The price will encourage sellers to place their De Kooning sculptures with Christie’s.
2. Andy Warhol: Judy Garland (Multicolor) (1978)
Estimate $1–1.5 million at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction, Sotheby’s New York, Tuesday, November 11, 6:30 p.m.
Warhol’s ’60s paintings have taken off into the stratosphere and will most likely stay there, so the market is looking for later works to invest in. In this sense, the “celebrity” portraits of the ’70s are beckoning. There are plenty of them and they’re going up. Fifteen of these have made $1 million dollars or more since 2006, and some have gone for over $2 million. Judy Garland might reasonably be expected to follow the upward curve.
3. Joseph Cornell, Aviary (Cockatoo and Watches) (ca. 1948)
Estimate: $2.5–3.5 million at the Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Christie’s New York, Wednesday, November 12, 6:30 p.m.
Joseph Cornell’s Surrealist boxes have long been cited as undervalued by experts—perhaps more from an art historical than a decorative point of view. Last year $2.5–3.5 million dollars would have been considered a very high estimate for one of his boxes, but several works from the Bergman Collection have since sold for more. Further works from the Bergman Collection this week should underline a revaluation trend that could have legs on it.
4. Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (648-3) (1987)
Estimate: $20–30 million at the Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Christie’s New York, Wednesday, November 12, 6:30 p.m.
The October sales in London saw a question mark posed over the market for Gerhard Richter abstracts as two top lots from Christie’s and Phillips went unsold (see: “Polke Drubs Richter at Christie’s $75 Million Essl Collection Sale“). There are 12 Richters coming up this week and they are all abstracts, so that should resolve things one way or another. Sotheby’s has an all-red one, estimated at $15–20 million, but it is guaranteed. Christie’s has a larger example, a myriad of different colors, which has no guarantee at $20–30 million, so that’s the one to watch.
5. Sigmar Polke, Filzschleife (1986)
Estimate: $2.5–3.5 million at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction, Sotheby’s New York, Tuesday, November 11, 6:30 p.m.
After an extremely strong performance at the London sales, Sigmar Polke would seem a good bet for the investor. But which ones should they look at from his extremely varied output? Sotheby’s has the top Polke of the week in Filzschleife, a 1986 painting on felt at $2.5–3.5 million, and it’s guaranteed, so someone has already staked a bet on it.
6. Chris Ofili, Untitled (Two Works) (2004)
Estimate: $30,000-40,000 at the Contemporary Art Afternoon Auction, Sotheby’s New York, Wednesday, November 12, 2 p.m.
Can a critic revive an artist’s market? Over the last year or so, Turner Prize–winning artist Chris Ofili has seen his auction prices flag with several lots not selling. Now he has a major retrospective at the New Museum, where critic Jerry Saltz was knocked out declaring Ofili to be one of the world’s best living artists. There are no major oils by Ofili coming up this week, but a number of watercolors at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, (and artnet’s online auction) could indicate whether confidence is returning to his market.
7. Yayoi Kusama, White No. 28 (1960)
Estimate: $1.5–2 million Christie’s New York Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Wednesday, November 12, 6:30 p.m.
Japanese phenomenon 85-year-old Yayoi Kusama cannot produce enough work to satisfy demand with the various dealers (Victoria Miro and David Zwirner among them) who show her work at art fairs and sell out. An auction is an alternative buying spot, but even there you can’t avoid the competition. Hardly anything of significance by her has not sold in recent years. White No. 28 is an example from her Infinity Nets series and the estimate is in line with recent estimates that have been left behind by bidders. How long she will be able to meet supply is an issue, because when the supply ends, demand will become more intense, and auction prices will likely rise.
8. Martin Kippenberger, Untitled (1988)
Estimate: $15–20 million at the New York Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Christie’s New York, Wednesday, November 12, 6:30 p.m.
Who will forget the astonished reaction when a Chinese buyer outbid the field to pay $18.6 million dollars for a self portrait in New York last May? This self portrait is arguably in the same league, carries the highest estimate yet for Kippenberger, and is guaranteed. Whether it rises below the low estimate or not will be interesting to see.
9. Danh Vō, We the People (detail) (2011)
Estimate: $300,000–500,000 at the Contemporary Art Evening sale, Phillips New York, Thursday, November 13, 7 p.m
Phillips is the shopping mall for hot young artists whose work is being flipped. That, by definition, makes these artists a risky buy—and usually on a short term–risk basis. Dutch/Vietnamese artist Danh Vō may just be carving himself a serious enough career to see out the short termers. His prices rose to new heights in London and may do so again here. This work carries the highest estimate yet for Vō.
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