Work of the Week: ‘Yocks’ by Barkley Hendricks

The work surpassed its presale estimate by 40 percent and bested the artist’s auction record in a recent sale, and that's not the first time it has set a record.

Barkley Hendricks's Yocks (1975). Courtesy Sotheby's

In the spirit of end-of-year reflection, let’s take one last look back at New York’s fall sales, just for good measure. Remember this Barkley Hendricks work that sold at Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale (November 15) for $8.4 million?

According to people familiar with the sale, the portrait was sold anonymously by the Long Museum, which was founded by high-profile collectors Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei. It marked one of the highlights of the night, surpassing its presale estimate by 40 percent and besting the artist’s auction record of $6.1 million for Stanley (1971), which was just set in May at Christie’s.  

To add interest to intrigue, it’s not the first (or the second) time the work has appeared on the auction block in recent memory, nor is it the first time the canvas has been a record-setter.

Ostensibly, Liu—who has a reputation for snatching up works at high prices—bought Yocks when it last sold at Sotheby’s contemporary evening auction in May 2019. According to the Artnet Price Database, it traded for $3.4 million then, which was a whopping 212 percent over its presale estimate and marked the auction record for Hendricks at the time. Sotheby’s declined to comment on the sale.

Prior to that, the canvas had sold for $942,500 in May 2017, also at Sotheby’s New York and well over its $300,000 to $400,000 estimate. The price briefly set a record for the artist then, until it was bested a few minutes later by another painting by Hendricks. It was the first time works by the renowned portraitist had come to market since his death in April 2017. 

That Liu chose to sell this frequent-flyer work anonymously is perhaps unsurprising. The Long Museum proved one of the biggest market headlines of 2023 when, earlier in the year, Sotheby’s announced it would be selling an estimated $150 million worth of works from the Shanghai institution under an umbrella of vague reasons. 

Yet more ink was spilled when the Hong Kong-based sale flopped, bringing in an underwhelming total of $69.5 million, less than half of the publicized sale estimate, and setting nerves on edge about a possible broader art-market meltdown. The jury is out on how far-reaching a ripple effect the disappointing results could have.   


Work of the Week is excerpted from The Back Room, our lively recap funneling only the week’s must-know intel into a nimble read you’ll actually enjoy. Artnet News Pro members get exclusive access—subscribe now to receive this in your inbox every Friday. 

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