Young female painters and bored monkeys turn heads at Christie’s £ 64.6million auction
The first non-fungible token to be auctioned in Europe – and was not minted until September – sold for just under £ 1million to a bidder sitting in a Christie’s room in London today.
An NFT triptych from the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) – one of the most popular NFT projects online – sold for £ 982,500 (with fees) after a rapid flurry of offers.
The buyer may have taken a wave. On Tuesday, the Yuga Labs collective, the creators of BAYC, announced that they had signed with the Maverick agency, which represents pop artists including Britney Spears and Madonna.
The successful bidder now owns three of the roughly 10,000 algorithm-generated bored monkeys that together traded for $ 132.2 million in peak sales in August according to The block.
More traditional artwork also turned heads at Christie’s 20th / 21st Century Evening Sale, which featured 38 lots, including many major 21st century artists, and was the first in-person event to full participation to be held since the onset of the pandemic.
The first lot in the sale, a 2019 figurative painting by British artist Cecily Brown, represented by Thomas Dane, was valued at £ 500,000 but was sold for £ 2.9m (£ 3.5m with fees) after a sustained bidding war on the part of buyers from three continents. Proceeds from the sale will go to Artists for Client Earth, an environmental charity with which Christie’s partners. Brown was the largest of a strong representation of female painters at auction, with works by Shara Hughes, Hilary Precis and Emily Mae Smith all far exceeding their estimates.
But the star of the auction was Hearing, a 1998 painting of a swimming pool scene by Anglo-Jamaican painter Hurvin Anderson, 56, from Birmingham and also portrayed by Dane. Anderson’s work has sparked a passionate back-and-forth between several bidders in London and from phones in the US and Hong Kong. Estimated at up to £ 1.5million, the painting sold for a record £ 6.2million (£ 7.4million with fees), offered by a phoning buyer from New York. Anderson’s work is currently on display as part of the Mixing It Up exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London and is the subject of a solo exhibition at the Dane Gallery in London.
Such enthusiasm for the beautiful painting created by mid-career artists reflects a current zeitgeist, says advisor Melanie Clore.
“We have come out of a very difficult time,” said Clore. “People have been locked in. There is euphoria and optimism at the moment, and this is reflected in the freshness, vitality and enthusiasm of these beautiful new paintings.”
Clore, formerly president of Sotheby’s Europe until 2016 and now co-founder of the Clore Wyndham art advisory group, notes that Christie’s sale took place after a very good performance at Sotheby’s equivalent auction on Thursday for young artists like Jadé Fadojutimi, Ewa Juszkiewicz and, more specifically, Flora Yukhnovich, the 31-year-old British artist from Norwich, who graduated from the City & Guilds of London Art School in 2017. Her painting I will have what she has premiered in 2020, shattered sales expectations for £ 2.3million. At Christie’s today, the 2019 painting by Hilary Pecis Kaba on a chair sold £ 180,000 (£ 225,000 with fees) against a high estimate of £ 60,000, while Emily Mae Smith 2017 Paint while shouting sold for £ 95,000 (£ 118,750 with fees), nearly four times the high estimate.
“There is the energy of youth present in these creations,” says Clore. “The fact that they were painted very recently does not deter people. There is a resurgence of interest in this kind of work from young and mid-career painters, and that translates into very high prices. Even if there is not the same in-depth knowledge of the secondary market for this work, collectors always take the opportunity to acquire them.
But art advisor Bona Montagu warned: “Auction houses are very cautious and cautious about which lots they choose to put on the market,” she says. “For some time now, there has been a preponderance of material from emerging and sought-after artists on sale. Auction houses know they are going to generate a lot of interest and bids for jobs that are hard to come by in the primary market.
With that comes risks for incumbents, Montagu says. “I’m a little worried about how pushed these young artists are into auctions like this,” she says. “They are still at the start of their careers. By creating these price points, they encourage investors to buy art in the hope that their value will inevitably increase in the same way. This is not necessarily good for artists.
Unlike the intoxicating auctions for young painters, there have been some disappointments for established names. Hockney’s Garden of the guest house, a 2000 painting that some commentators expected to steal, sold for £ 5m (£ 5.8m with fees) on an estimate of up to £ 7m, while Peter Doig’s Houses on the Hill, estimated at between £ 3.5 million and £ 4.5million, failed to sell. A 2012 Rudolf Stingel painting estimated at £ 1million has been removed.
Christie’s reported that 35% of buyers are from Asia. There has been a 50% increase in buyers under 40, year over year. In total, 90% of the lots sold for a total of £ 64.6m (with fees), below a high pre-sale estimate (excluding fees) of £ 66.4m.
“We have judged the season well. We brought the right material, ”said a spokesperson The arts journal.