Auction  May 20, 2024  Carlota Gamboa

Christie’s, Sotheby's, and Phillips: Auction Highlights and Record Breaks

Courtesy of Sotheby's

Leonora Carrington, Les Distractions de Dagobert (1945)

Despite the market’s slight lull in comparison to the last few years, Christie’s, Sotheby's, and Phillips had their annual May marquee sales and ended up, for the most part, within their estimated number brackets. 

Even though there were some unforeseen obstacles—like the cyberattack on Christie’s website in the days leading up to the auction, and a number of withdrawals from both Sotheby’s Modern Evening Sale and Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale— the week was not without its perks. 

To the surprise of bidders, one of the withdrawn pieces from the 21st Century Evening Sale was Brice Marden’s diptych Event (2004-07), standing with a low estimate of $30 million. Due to its exclusion, the night's final result of $80.3m (including fees) seems fair when collated with the auction house’s pre-sale estimate of $104.1 million to $155 million. Jean Michel Basquiet’s 1982 painting, The Italian Version of Popeye has no Pork in his Diet, ended up being the priciest work of the Evening Sale when it closed out for $32,035,000.

Courtesy of Christie's

David Hockney, A Lawn Being Sprinkled (1967)

The 20th Century Evening Sale also went on mostly as expected, bringing in a total of $413 million. The night succeeded in falling between its estimated bracket of $342 million to $497 million, and was led by Hockney’s A Lawn Being Sprinkled (1967). The work, which had never before come to auction, sold for just above its low estimate at $28.6 million.

However, Sotheby’s Modern Evening Sale did have a surprise in store when Leonora Carrington set her auction record and became the highest priced UK-born woman on the market. Argentinian businessman and founder of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) was the one who secured Carrington’s 1945 piece entitled Les Distractions de Dagobert.

The surrealist work dashed the British-Mexican painter’s previous sale record of $3.3 million, and blazed over the piece’s high-estimate of $18 million when it sold for $28.5 million at the Wednesday night auction. Carrington is now only second to Frida Kahlo’s 1949 self-portrait, Diego y yo, as the most expensive artwork by a Latin American artist. The piece, also purchased by Costantini, sold for $34.8 million in 2021. 

In the end, Sotheby’s Modern Evening Sale made $198.1 million, still slightly behind in numbers from that of last year’s May auction

About the Author

Carlota Gamboa

Carlota Gamboa is an art writer based in Los Angeles.

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