Around the Auction World: August 2021
The summer auction season drew to a gentle close in August 2021. The month offered many opportunities to encounter contemporary art and 20th-century collectibles, as well as dedicated sales of Outsider Art, LGBTQ+ art, and celebrity memorabilia. The art world also showed signs of recovery after more than a year of pandemic-related losses. California’s Monterey Car Week returned in full force after an extended break, and Christie’s announced ambitious plans to expand its presence in Hong Kong.
From American pewter to beluga whales, here are the top headlines from around the auction world in August 2021.
August opened with the long-awaited 2021 edition of Monterey Car Week in California. The event signaled the health of the car collecting market with enthusiastic buying across all ten days. RM Sotheby’s alone brought in USD 148.5 million. The other participating auction houses, including Bonhams and Mecum Auctions, saw strong results as well.
Celebrity collectibles dominated headlines this month. Heritage Auctions offered the game-worn baseball jersey associated with Hank Aaron’s 3,000th hit in mid-August. It sold for $540,000, well above its starting estimate of $200,000. Julien’s Auctions featured a selection of Lucille Ball memorabilia in its summer Hollywood sale, held at the end of the month.
Auction houses continued to embrace NFTs this August. Christie’s Hong Kong announced plans for a dedicated NFT auction in Asia this September. The company will become the first international auction house to formally enter the region’s digital art market. It particularly hopes to attract millennial collectors in Hong Kong, many of whom helped sustain revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guernsey’s brought an unprecedented opportunity to the auction block this August. Bidders competed to win the naming rights for three beluga whales that were recently transferred to Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium. The sale of two names yielded $1.5 million for the young belugas’ care.
A print by pioneering Chicana artist Laura Aguilar exceeded expectations during Swann Auction Galleries’ annual LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture & History auction. Stillness #31 sold for $13,000 after 21 competitive bids, more than seven times the lot’s high estimate. The market is also growing to include the work of other underappreciated masters, such as Indian artist Manjit Bawa. One of Bawa’s ink drawings featured in Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers’ fine art sale on August 19th.
Collectors had the opportunity to browse several specialized events this August. Bette and Mel Wolf presented a buy-now sale of American pewter items, while Bonhams offered a selection of Chinese hair ornaments from the Hsiao Family Collection. A group of eight zhegu chai hairpins sold for $10,698, nearly reaching the high estimate of $11,000.
Quote of the Month
“Just like [in] the “regular” art world, there are always new artists rising and fresh discoveries made within Folk, Outsider & Self-Taught Art + Americana. Likewise, changing tastes and trends drive the value of and market for different types of work from these genres. Yet the best art usually speaks for itself, rises to the top, and stands the test of time.”
– Aron Packer, Senior Specialist for Contemporary & Outsider Art at Toomey & Co., on the changing nature of Outsider Art