Artists of Color and Women Soar at Christie’s 21st Century Sale

As the usual suspects continue to command the highest prices at auction – as evidenced by the $195 million sale of Warhol’s ‘Marilyn’ on Monday night – the art market also continues to seize the next potential hot thing.

On Tuesday, Christie’s turned its attention to some of those prospects during its 21st Century Contemporary Evening Sale – which totaled $103 million, off a high estimate of $106 million. The auction of 31 works brought high prices for works by black artists like Amoako Boafo, Reggie Burrows Hodges and Ouattara Watts.

Women also do well, including Shara Hughes, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Elizabeth Peyton and Lisa Yuskavage, as well as unknowns such as 27-year-old painter Anna Weyant, whom mega dealer Larry Gagosian recently began portraying (and frequent). And Refik Anadol, a Turkish-American data artist, offered the only NFT of the evening.

“We are defining what will be the next great generation of artists,” said Christie’s specialist Ana Maria Celis. “Ultimately the market will decide that.”

The supply of top-notch works around the world is limited, and collectors – as well as auction houses – remain hungry for inventory. Due to this demand, the usually long journey of artists to the world stages of a Christie’s or a Sotheby’s has accelerated more and more.

Last year, for example, Hodges, a figurative painter, had his first solo exhibition in New York at Karma Gallery on the Lower East Side and only eight months later set an auction record when one of his paintings, estimated between $40,000 and $70,000, sold for over $600,000. At Christie’s on Tuesday, his “Intersection of Color: Experience,” which features a host of figurines, sold for $706,000, after being estimated between $200,000 and $300,000.

Part of that, art experts say, has to do with collectors’ attention to artists of color in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. “Everything changed in 2020,” said artistic advisor Mashonda Tifrere. “Since December 2021, I have sold over 60 works by emerging black and brown artists.”

“Now you’re discovering artists who should have been in conversation,” said Gardy St. Fleur, an artistic advisor. “They are finally getting their due.”

Works by artists of color exceeded their estimates. Boafo’s “yellow dress” sold for $819,000 on an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000; a work by Pakistani-born artist Salman Toor, ‘Girl and Boy With Driver’, sold for $882,000, after being estimated between $150,000 and $200,000. A dark Glenn Ligon from the artist’s “Stranger” series sold for $1.6 million, on an estimated $600,000-800,000.

A wide range of female artists also did well. Weyant’s work, “Summertime” – featuring a prone young woman with bare skin – opened the evening at Christie’s Rockefeller Center showroom, selling to an unidentified buyer by telephone in Hong Kong for the staggering sum of $1.5 million on an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000 after eight minutes of competition between 11 bidders. “What a way to start the sale,” said auctioneer Georgina Hilton.

A fantasy landscape by Hughes, which was exhibited last year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in St. Louis, sold for $2.9 million on an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. And Juszkiewicz’s “Portrait of a Lady (After Louis Leopold Boilly)”, which explores gender and class in European painting, fetched $1.6 million, having been estimated between $200,000 and $300,000.

Nearly a third of the sale was to female artists, who together made more than three times their combined low estimate. On Monday evening, Ann Craven’s painting of three birds, “I Wasn’t Sorry, 2003”, sold for more than 20 times its high estimate of $30,000: $680,400.

Giovanna Bertazzoni, vice president of the 20th/21st century department at Christie’s at Tuesday night’s after-sales press conference, pointed out that the strong presence of female artists in the sale echoed the focus on women. in the current Venice Biennale, curated by Cecilia Alemani.

Likewise, next week, Sotheby’s and Phillip begin sales with Weyant, as does Christie’s. The first 10 lots at Sotheby’s “Now Evening Auction” on May 19 are women, including Simone Leigh and Christina Quarles, both featured at the Venice Biennale. At the Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on May 18, 14 of the 37 artists in the sale are women, including Amy Sherald, Issy Wood and Robin F. Williams.

Sales of some of the more established artists were less dynamic. A dark red Gerhard Richter, the most expensive lot in the sale, sold for $36.5 million, just above the estimate of over $35 million; Sigmar Polke soared to $819,000, below the low estimate of $1.2 million.

Attesting to the mercurial nature of the art market – how an artist’s fortune can plummet – an Adrian Ghenie abstract, recently trending at auction, sold for $2.2 million, in below the low estimate of $2.5 million.

Two Basquiats, delivered by the same owner, were withdrawn from sale — typically. an indication that the reserve price would not be met. “It’s never an easy decision,” said Guillaume Cerutti, chief executive of Christie. “We don’t want to sell at any price. We want to sell at a relevant price for the work and at a price that the customer wants. »

Credit…Christie’s Images Ltd.

Anadol’s dynamic NFT, inspired by the facade of Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batlló in Barcelona, ​​sold for $1.4 million, after being estimated between $1 and $2 million. (The artist installed his still-morphing “Living NFT”, based on climate data, outside Christie’s headquarters prior to the sale.)

Despite the scum that seemed to surround some artists at Christie’s sale, art-world watchers say it’s encouraging to see artists of color in the major leagues at auction, commanding big prizes.

“It’s great that a lot of these artists are being spotlighted,” said Phyllis Hollis, host of the Cerebral Women Art Talks podcast. “The auction is a way to solidify the contributions of artists of color to the canon. People are recognizing the talent of underrepresented artists, and that’s promising.

Laura J. Boyer