Toulouse-Lautrec Leads Christie’s $119.3 M. Hong Kong–New York Relay Sale

BY COLIN GLEADELL

December 2, 2020 5:36pm

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 'Pierreuse', 1889.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierreuse, 1889.CHRISTIE’S LTD

Christie’s presented part two of its pandemic response series of 20th century art sales today, offering up a mix of Impressionist, modern, and contemporary Western and Asian art. The auction realized a reasonable $119.3 million, against an estimate of $94.9 million–$147 million, with just 5 lots going unsold. (Unless otherwise stated sale prices include the buyers’ premium; estimates do not.)

Like July’s “ONE” sale at Christie’s, the auction was live-streamed from Hong Kong from 9:30 p.m. local time, where the first section of the sale had been organized, and then during the morning in New York for the remainder. Unlike the “ONE” sale, Paris and London were left to stage their most recent auctions separately.

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At the final count, Hong Kong appeared to have had the healthier result, with $52.4 million for 19 lots, of which 8 were guaranteed. Although New York took the larger sum of $66.9 million, it was for 31 lots, of which 14 were guaranteed.

Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of the house’s 20th and 21st century art department, put a shine on the performance following the auction. “This week’s sale series in both Hong Kong and New York are a fitting coda to an innovative and re-imagined fall sale season for 20th and 21st Century Art, which started in early October with a $387.2 million sale series, and continued in London and Paris with $141.3 million more,” Rotter said in a statement.

The combined location and department ploy is designed to emphasize the global and interchangeable nature of the market—and also to bolster thin-looking sales. This sale, for instance, boasted just 13 Impressionist and modern works, all in New York, among them the star lot of the sale, Toulouse Lautrec’s subtle side view of a young model he discovered in Montmartre, Pierreuse, which had belonged to automotive head Henry Ford II. This work attracted at least five bidders, all in New York, before selling well above estimate for $9 million.

The top lot going into the sale was Yoshitomo Nara’s 7½-foot-tall Agent Orange (In the Milky Lake), 2009, from the Hong Kong leg of the auction, which carried a pre-sale estimate of $6.5 million–$9 million, marking the highest one to date for the Japanese artist whose prices have been mounting in the last decade. A 1986 abstraction from Zao Wou-ki—whose market, previously located largely in France, took off when the Asian collectors began seeking out his art in the 1990s–fell short of its high estimate of HKD 55 million ($7 million), selling for $4.5 million with buyer’s fees.

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Amoako Boafo, Baba Diop.COURTESY CHRISTIE’S

The most ebullient section of the sale came for younger Western artists in Hong Kong, where six artist records were toppled. Amoako Boafo broke the million-dollar boundary for the first time when his large 2019 painting, Baba Diop, sold for almost 10 times the estimate to the same bidder for $1.2 million. Other records tumbled for Nicolas Party, Dana Schutz, and Georges Mathieu. Meanwhile, Cecily’s Brown’s Bonus (2004) sold for $3.2 million to a buyer in the room.

“The results show we read the market and its current appetites well, focusing our relay sale on contemporary material and rarities of Impressionist and Modern art” said Rotter. “It was a formula well-suited to this December season, when the primary market focus traditionally shifts to this sector of the market. Given the tremendous depth of bidding and numerous auction records achieved, it was a sale strategy that proved ideal for this moment.”

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