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Brice Marden, Window Study No. 4, 1985. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Sale Breaks Previous Online Auction Record

The inaugural online Sotheby’s contemporary art day auction, which concluded on Thursday, May 14, netted $13.7 million—the highest total ever for an online sale at the auction house. The sum is more than double the previous record; it also helped Sotheby’s surpass its $100 million mark in global online sales for 2020, which is nearly five times the total online sales made during the same period last year.

“The results from Thursday’s sale are a bellwether of the strength of the market right now and the growing possibilities of online sales,” said Max Moore, cohead of Sotheby’s contemporary art day auctions in New York. “We saw active bidding not only at the top end of the market, but also for younger, up-and-coming artists, including noteworthy results for Matthew Wong and Kengo Takahashi, both of whom made their auction debuts. There were also strong prices achieved far above high estimates for Lucas Arruda, Sanya Kantarovsky, Claire Tabouret, and Julie Curtiss, among others. The sale was a clear signal that there is still a healthy appetite for quality works on the market, and that consignors trust not only the online format but the market in general right now.”

Highlights of the auction include Christopher Wool’s Untitled, 1988, an exceptional example of one of his pattern paintings, and Brice Marden’s Window Study No. 4, 1985, which both exceeded $1 million; Richard Estes’s Broadway and 64th—depicting New York’s Lincoln Center, the piece achieved $860,000, which was more than double its high estimate—and Matthew Wong’s untitled watercolor, which sold for $62,500 after a bidding war between eight interested parties.

Despite the closure of its temporary locations due to Covid-19 and the subsequent furloughing of its staff, the auction house is proving that digital auctions held amid the pandemic can turn a profit. Its previous online auction record was also set during the global health crisis. After “Contemporary Curated” was converted into an online sale in April, it raked in more than $6.4 million and saw 88 percent of its lots sold, including George Condo’s Antipodal Reunion, 2005, which fetched $1.3 million.

Christie’s and Phillips previously announced that they would consolidate Impressionist, modern, and contemporary sales and hold the auctions this summer. Earlier today, Christie’s announced that it has scheduled a new modern, postwar, and contemporary art and design sale for July 10. Titled “ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century,” the auction will take place in real time from four of Christie’s major hubs—Hong Kong, London, Paris, and New York—and will replace the twentieth-century evening sale that was to take place in New York the week of June 22. 

Commenting on the announcement, Alex Rotter, chairman of postwar and contemporary art, said: “Christie’s is reconfiguring how we engage with objects and the way that we present them to both dedicated collectors and the world at large. With our virtual and physical worlds rapidly merging, we felt that it was vital that we meet this new reality with an innovative platform. We will be able to safely explore new ways of presenting extraordinary objects and works of art to new collectors and those with whom we have been honored to partner with for generations in building their collections. And so it begins, we begin again, with ONE.”

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