Spring 2017 New York Auction Roundup

Joan Miró, Strip-Tease (1959), two impressions: etching and aquatints in colors, image 7 3/4 x 11 5/8 inches each, sheet 11 x 15 inches and 12 7/8 x 19 3/4 inches. One with extensive printing annotations in pencil by Miró, and one signed and annotated ‘H.C.’ in pencil (a working proof and one of several hors commerce impressions, the edition was 75). Printed by Crommelynck et Dutrou, Paris. Published by Maeght, Paris. Image courtesy of Phillips / Phillips.com.

Phillips kicked off the spring sales on 18 April with a selection of works from the collection of master printer Piero Crommelynck, including a number of unique working proofs and B.A.T. impressions. A set of three progressive state etchings of Picasso’s Meninas (1973) by Richard Hamilton was the top seller from the collection, fetching $187,500 (est. $40,000–60,000) and works by R.B. Kitaj and Jasper Johns also far exceeded their estimates. Works by Joan Miró were also immensely popular, and many lots doubled and tripled their estimates with most bids coming from telephone bidders. Near the end of the Miró lots, the bidding slowed and four of seven works by Picasso passed through.

The morning session continued with modern works posting solid results: most prints by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Dali and Miró sold at or a bit above estimate. Two works by Josef Albers exceeded expectations: JHM–II (1973) for $20,000 (est. $4,000–6,000) and Hommage au Carr<é/i>: one plate (1965) (Danilowitz 160.4) for $5,625 (est. $1,500–2,500). Frank Stella was also in demand: Honduras Lottery Co. from Multicolored Squares, State II (1973) went for $9,375 (est. $2,000–3,000), Shards Va (1982) for $20,000 (est. $5,000–7,000) and B. Had Gadya: Back Cover from Illustrations After El Lissitzky’s Had Gadya (1982–84) for $30,000 (est. $6,000–9,000).

The afternoon session also saw solid results. Most lots sold within estimate, with a few notable exceptions: Jasper Johns’ Two Maps II (1966) for $40,000 (est. $10,000–20,000) and John Baldessari’s Repository (Orange/Blue) and Repository (Red/Green) (2002) for $12,500 (est. $4,000–6,000). Keith Haring works all sold well, with all five lots offered meeting or exceeding estimate, including two screenprints from Pop Shop I and IV, two color lithographs and one offset print (The Kutztown Connection).

The steady bidding continued (with a larger live audience) through the higher-priced lots of the evening sale. Several Warhols surpassed estimate, including Alexander the Great (1982) (Feldman and Schellmann B.291) at $100,000 (est. $40,000–60,000) and a set of three screenprints, Kiku (1983) for $52,500 (est. $20,000–30,000). Three works by Richard Serra also jumped past estimate: Muddy Waters (1987) for $30,000 (est. $12,000–18,000), Vesturey II (1991) for $30,000 (est. $8,000–12,000) and Transversal I (2004) for $37,500 (est. $8,000–12,000). The sell-through rate for the entire sale was 87.8% with 53.2% selling above high estimate.

Keith Haring, Silence Equals Death (1989), screenprint, image 33 x 33 inches, sheet 39 x 39 inches.Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2017.

The two-part Prints & Multiples sale at Christies began on 19 April with a daytime sale of modern works. This first auction had a sell-through rate of 84.3%, with 59 of 70 lots selling and 34.3% beating the high estimate. The opening run of Miró works mostly sold within estimate. Chagall’s Longus, Daphnis et Chloé, Tériade Editeur, Paris, a 1961 set of 42 color lithographs, sold near the low estimate at $168,750 (est. $150,000–250,000), but this was an improvement on Christie’s fall 2016 sale, where the same set passed through. There was more interest in works by Matisse, with Visage légèrement penché vers la gauche (1913) and Jeune Hindoue (1924) exceeding estimates at $37,500 (est. $10,000–15,000) and $21,250 (est. $8,000–12,000) respectively. Picasso’s Nature Morte Au Verre Sous La Lampe, a 1962 linocut, expected to sell at between $200,000 and $300,000, failed to find a buyer, although another impression of the same print had sold the night before at Phillips for $250,000. A couple etchings by Giorgio Morandi, Paesaggio Grizzana (1913) and I pioppi (1930) jumped past their estimates at $7,500 (est. $3,000–5,000) and $9,375 (est. $3,000–4,000), although a higher-priced work, Le Tre Case Del Campiaro A Grizzana (1929), with an estimate of $30,000–50,000, fell flat.

Sales picked up during contemporary sale the next day, with a 91.8% sell-through rate and an impressive 48.2% of lots selling above high estimate. Robert Rauschenberg’s famous lithograph, Accident (1963) sold for $93,750 (est. $40,000–60,000), although the previous lot, Jasper Johns’ False Start II (1962) passed through with no interest (est. $100,000–150,000). Works from Hockney’s ever-popular Lithographic Water series sold well: Lithographic Water Made Of Lines, Crayon, And Two Blue Washes (1980) went for $75,000 (est. $30,000–50,000); Lithographic Water Made of Lines and Crayon (1980) for $37,500 (est. $20,000–30,000); and Lithographic Water Made Of Lines (1980) for $30,000 (est. $20,000–30,000). Roy Lichtenstein’s lithograph Mermaid (1978) more than doubled its estimate at $17,500 (est. $4,000–6,000), even though the impression suffered from light- and mat-staining and attenuated colors. After a fairly standard run of Warhols, the auction ended with several works by Bruce Nauman and Keith Haring rising above estimate. These included Nauman’s House Divided (1985) for $8,125 (est. $3,000-5,000) and Suck Cuts (1973) for $10,625 (est. $3,000–5,000); and Haring’s Silence Equals Death (1989) for $30,000 (est. $12,000–18,000).

Sotheby’s held their four-part Prints & Multiples sale on 27 and 28 April. Despite a good-sized audience, the evening sale on the 27th got off to a slow start, with only three of the first ten lots selling (works by George Bellows, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, El Lissitzky and Edvard Munch were passed through). However, the third lot of the sale, a heretofore unrecorded working proof between Glasgow’s fourth and fifth states of Whistler’s Nocturne (ca. 1880–81) (Kennedy 184; Glasgow 222), blew by its estimate and sold for $75,000 (est. $25,000–45,000). Interest picked back up with a run of Picasso and Miró prints, and lots by contemporary artists generally sold well within or slightly above estimate. A few standouts included Keith Haring’s Dog (1985) for $52,500 (est. $20,000–30,000); Yoshitomo Nara’s Untitled (Eye Patch) (2012) for $62,500 (est. $10,000–15,000); and David Hockney’s Rue de Seine (1972) and Horizontal Dogs (1995) for $37,500 (est. $15,000–20,000) and $16,250 (est. $5,000–7,000) respectively.

The sale the following morning began with a run of 35 Grosvenor School prints from the Jeffrey M. Kaplan Collection by Sybil Andrews, Claude Flight, Cyril Power and Lill Tschudi, which were predictably popular and sold mostly within or near estimate. Sybil Andrews’ Racing (1934), which went for a remarkable $37,500 (est. $6,000–8,000). The selection of American prints that followed continued the successful run, including Thomas Hart Benton’s The Race (1942) and Edward Hopper’s Night Shadows (1922) at $27,500 each (both est. $10,000–15,000). However, the Whistler prints that followed were disappointing, with only one of five selling, and below estimate at that. The auction continued with strong sales for Chagall, Miró, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso works, with most selling within or close to estimate.

Solomon Koninck, A Man with a Penknife (ca. 1635–40), etching, 15.7 x 12.5 cm. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.

The afternoon contemporary sale also saw consistent sales. Works by Keith Haring were early favorites: his Three Lithographs from 1985 (Littman pp.38–41) went for $47,500 (est. $7,000–10,000) and Retrospect (1989) went for $106,250 (est. $30,000–50,000). A paper pulp work by Ellsworth Kelly, Colored Paper Image XI (Gray Curves with Brown) (1976) also surpassed estimate at $27,500 (est. $8,000–12,000). Several works by Frank Stella from the Kenneth Tyler Collection drew a number of bids, including Fattipuff (1996) for $13,750 (est. $3,500–4,500); Juam (State I) (1997) for $20,000 (est. $7,000–10,000); and Ain Ghazal Variation (1999) for $32,500 (est. $10,000–15,000). Overall, the second day of sales posted a respectable 83.4% sell-through rate with 43.4% selling above high estimate.

The Prints & Multiples sale at Doyle on 1 May attracted a full house with few chairs empty in the live audience, and had a sell-through rate of 92%, and as usual was composed of mainly less expensive lots than those at the larger houses.

The first lot, a screenprint by Josef Albers, FGa (1968) sold for an impressive $5,937 (est. $1,000–1,5000). Lyonel Feininger was also an early favorite, with all three lots by the artist more than doubling their high estimate: Tetlow I (1914) went for $4,375 (est. $,1,500–2,500), Leuchtbake (1918) for $3,125 (est. $800–1,200) and Hansaflotte (1918) for $3,437 (est. $800–$1,200). The enthusiasm continued with two screenprints by Helen Frankenthaler doubling their estimates as well: Air Frame (1965) and What Red Lines can do (1970) sold for $3,437 each (both est. $1,000–1,500). Works by the late Howard Hodgkin proved very popular, with nine selling above or at the high end of estimate to several different bidders. Especially remarkable was the sale of David’s Pool, a 1979–85 hand-colored softground etching and aquatint, for $17,500 (est. $3,000–5,000), a world auction record. Käthe Kollwitz works also inspired many bids, with five of six more than doubling their estimates, including Zertretene (1900) for $5,000 (est. $1,000–1,500) and Vergewaltigt (1907–8) for $4,062 (est. $800–1,200).

Swann Auction Galleries’ wide-ranging Old Master Through Modern Prints sale the following day posted generally disappointing results, with a sell-through rate of less than 60%, and only a few lots selling notably above estimate.

The morning Old Master session included a few high bids for works such as Dürer’s Knight, Death and the Devil (1513) for $52,500 (est. $50,000–70,000), Sea Monster (before 1500) for $47,500, and Four Horsemen (1498) for $43,750, (both est. $40,000–60,000). Rembrandt results were mixed: works in good condition generally found buyers, while the quality of the unsold lots was perhaps not as high as buyers were looking for. Rembrandt’s Self Portrait in Flat Cap and Embroidered Dress (ca. 1642) went for $87,500 (est. $20,000–30,000) and The Fourth Oriental Head (ca. 1635) went for $72,500 (est. $30,000–50,000). Solomon Koninck’s A Man with a Penknife (ca. 1635) and Piranesi’s rare six-sheet Ichnographiam Campi Martii antiquae Urbis (1757) also exceeded estimate at $18,750 and $6,500 respectively (est. $5,000–8,0000 and $2,000–3,000).

In the afternoon session several works by Whistler passed through, including Venus (1859) and The Doorway (1879–80) (both est. $40,000–60,000). Works by Cézanne and Toulouse-Lautrec suffered the same fate. Even works by Picasso failed to attract much interest, with several passing through and only a few above or near the high end of estimate. Among the few prints to sell at noteworthy prices were Yves Tanguy’s San Titre (1937) for $10,000 (est. $3,000–5,000) and Duchamp’s La Mariée mise à Nu par ses Célibataires Mêmes (The Green Box) (1934) for $23,750 (est. $8,000–12,000).

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait in a Flat Cap and Embroidered Dress (ca. 1642), etching, 9.3 x 6.2 cm. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.

Swann’s contemporary sale on 11 May yielded more positive results: a 72% sell-through rate and a handful of record breaking sales, including David Hockney’s etching The Artist and Model (1974) for $52,500 (est. $20,000–30,000), Ellsworth Kelly’s lithograph Blue and Yellow and Red-Orange (1964–65) for $16,250 (est. $7,000–10,000) and Richard Diebenkorn’s lithograph Untitled (Ocean Park) (1969) for $11,875 (est. $5,000–8,000). Most of the other works by Hockney exceeded or sold within estimate as well, with Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (1970) going for $23,400 (est. $10,000–15,000). Works by Josef Albers proved exceptionally popular, with six of seven lots selling above estimate. Other artists were less in demand, including the late James Rosenquist (six of seven lots either sold below estimate or were passed through) and Elizabeth Peyton (three of four lots passed through).

Bonhams’ Modern & Contemporary Prints and Multiples on 6 June ended with discouraging results and a sell-through rate of less than 50% (this figure does not include the 55 photographs of Marilyn Monroe that were included as a part of the sale).

The sale started slowly with two Chagall works selling below estimate and another passing through. Miró sales were also underwhelming, with only two of six lots selling. Some works in the Contemporary section of the sale fared better, selling above estimate, including Josef Albers’ I-S JP (1972) for $7,125 (est. $3,000–4,000); Ellsworth Kelly’s Leaves (Feuilles) (1964–65) for $8,750 (est. $4,000–6,000); and Louise Nevelson’s Full Moon (1980) for $7,500 (est. $3,000–5,000).