Around the Auction World: July 2021

James Ardis
Published on
Images from around the auction world for July 2021. Image credit from left to right: Christie’s and Heritage Auctions (both center and right pictures). Collage by Heemin Moon (Auction Daily).
Images from around the auction world for July 2021. Image credit from left to right: Christie’s and Heritage Auctions (both center and right pictures). Collage by Heemin Moon (Auction Daily).

While the summer is normally a slow time for the auction world, July 2021 saw no shortage of industry headlines. Heritage Auctions broke the record for the most expensive video game at auction twice this month. The twin achievements point to the continued health of the collectibles category.

Meanwhile, auction houses offering NFTs generally enjoyed solid results. No single NFT commanded the headlines this month. Instead, collectors considered digital works from many different artists. July may be the first month, too, in which few within the industry questioned NFTs’ commercial viability. 

From Hans Zimmer to Mario, here are the top headlines from around the auction world for July 2021.

Industry Trends

Auction houses showcased a wide variety of NFTs this month. That included three digital artworks from an unlikely collaboration between ThankYouX and Hans Zimmer, presented by Phillips. Meanwhile, Christie’s offered a new entry in Micah Johnson‘s Aku series, which empowers Black children.

Art fairs are also doubling down on NFTs. The ongoing LA Art Show, for example, features a digital art exhibition from Vellum LA and SuperRare.

Hi, my name is… by Micah Johnson. Image from Async Art.
Hi, my name is… by Micah Johnson. Image from Async Art.

Heritage Auctions stunned many when it beat the record for the most expensive video game at auction twice in three days. First, a copy of The Legend of Zelda achieved USD 870,000, followed shortly by $1.56 million for a copy of Super Mario 64. Video games are the latest collectible to draw escalating prices at auction, with many drawing comparisons to the demand for comic books.

Several pieces of memorabilia also saw heated bidding this month. A Steinway Model D grand piano Sir Elton John played in more than 100 shows sold for $915,000. The winning bidder was Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. Meanwhile, a love letter written by the late poet Sylvia Plath to her husband, Ted Hughes, realized $30,240 with Sotheby’s, double its high estimate.

Quote of the Month

“Teddy Teddy Teddy: I have the feeling that if only I see you, just curl up warmly with you, all this tension, the gorging of fury which I eat again and again until it crams my throat, all this will flow gently away and there will be peace peace peace. ”

Sylvia Plath in a love letter sold this month with Sotheby’s

Auction Highlights

Sotheby’s presented an auction dedicated to Contemporary Realism this July. The sale featured several politically-relevant artworks, including Crossing II: Border Paintings by Vincent Figliola.

Another contemporary artist with works on offer this month was Lady Pink. Her graffiti painting, Queen Matilda, was a featured lot in a recent Shapiro Auctions event.

Lady Pink with her work. Image from the artist.
Lady Pink with her work. Image from the artist.

The market for works by the late Modernist painter Amrita Sher-Gil continues to grow. This month, her 1938 piece In the Ladies Enclosure became the second-most expensive Indian artwork sold at auction.

Christie’s offered an untitled abstract painting by Alfonso Ossorio this month, an artist who was largely discounted in his lifetime. While a market is emerging for Ossorio’s work, this painting sold at its low estimate, $30,000.

More Highlights From the Month


German Museums, the Met, and Others Move to Return Benin Bronzes

The Haunted Mansion Memorabilia Headlines Potter & Potter’s Disney-Themed Auction

European Porcelain: History and Evolution

Auction Review: The Art of Anime and Everything Cool

Inside the Auction House: Pook & Pook, Inc.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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