Around the Auction World: June 2021

James Ardis
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Photos from around the auction world in June 2021. Image credit from left to right: Phillips/ Poly Auction, Artsy, and Sotheby’s. Collage by Heemin Moon (Auction Daily).
Photos from around the auction world in June 2021. Image credit from left to right: Phillips/ Poly Auction, Artsy, and Sotheby’s. Collage by Heemin Moon (Auction Daily).

Marking the halfway point of the year, June 2021 reaffirmed many of the industry trends that emerged in previous months. A pair of auctions in Hong Kong and Beijing, for example, emphasized how strong bidding is across Asia right now. Meanwhile, Sotheby’s Natively Digital sale proved there is still a healthy demand for NFTs. 

As more companies and organizations celebrate Pride Month, June 2021 was also an opportunity for auction houses to champion artists in the LGBTQ+ community. Plus, with Independence Day around the corner, many in the industry offered American ephemera and other pieces of Americana.

From baseball cards to CryptoPunks, here are the major headlines from around the auction world in June 2021.

Industry Trends

June was another big month for NFTs, despite concerns about their long-term viability. Sotheby’s Natively Digital sale offered a wide range of lots, including a CryptoPunk and the first NFT ever minted. When the bidding ended, the auction achieved USD 17.1 million and a perfect 100% sell-through rate. The auction house followed that up later in June by offering an NFT of the World Wide Web’s original source code.

In their latest collaboration, Phillips and Poly Auction also achieved white-glove sales. They hosted two days of auctions that ran concurrently in Hong Kong and Beijing. Highlighted artists included Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama. The $90.4 million total was the latest proof that auction houses can depend on enthusiastic bidders throughout Asia.

FEWOCiOUS, still from Year 5, Age 18 – I Taught Myself How To Fly, 2021. Image from Christie’s.
FEWOCiOUS, still from Year 5, Age 18 – I Taught Myself How To Fly, 2021. Image from Christie’s.

June was an opportunity for the auction industry to celebrate both established and emerging voices in the LGBTQ+ community. Christie’s sale of NFTs by 18-year-old FEWOCiOUS and Artnet’s Queer Legacy auction were among the highlights during Pride Month 2021.

In the lead-up to Independence Day in the United States, several auctions looked back on the nation’s history, including a sale of American historical ephemera from Cowan’s Auctions. Others, meanwhile, inspired conversations about the nation’s troubling origins. That included a pair of sales featuring photographs of Native Americans taken by the controversial Edward S. Curtis.

Auction Highlights

The look back at American history continued with Hindman’s Sports Memorabilia sale, headlined by items related to the country’s most accomplished athletes, including Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan, and Muhammad Ali.

Copy of Action Comics #1 offered by Heritage Auctions. Image from the auction house.
Copy of Action Comics #1 offered by Heritage Auctions. Image from the auction house.

Heritage Auctions offered a copy of Action Comics #1 this month, shortly after another copy beat the record for the most expensive comic at auction. The piece achieved $528,000, far below the record. However, the three-day event set a world record for the highest amount netted by a comic book auction, $22.4 million.

Another unique collectible that crossed the auction block this month was the most expensive stamp in the world, the British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta. Although the piece fell short of Sotheby’s presale estimate ($10 million – $15 million), its final price of $8.3 million still put it above all other items in the category.

In terms of fine art, June 2021 was another opportunity to appreciate a diverse range of emerging artists. Highlights included abstract pieces by Jadé Fadojutimi and a timed buy-now sale of Jiyoung Chung‘s joomchi artworks.

Jiyoung Chung, Seeds_Voices VI. Image from the artist.
Jiyoung Chung, Seeds_Voices VI. Image from the artist.

Quote of the Month 

“The pandemic has brought some major changes that impact the way we sell and promote art, as well as the way we make, enjoy, and appreciate it. This ubiquitous digital mediascape affects the new canon, and the art world is consequently responding.”

– Art advisor Elisa Carollo on the pandemic’s impact on the market

More Highlights From the Month

“The Discovery of Witchcraft” by Reginald Scot Headlines Manuscript Sale

Dishing on Strawser Auctions’ June 18th and 19th Fiestaware Sales Event

The Graffiti Spaghetti of Mr. Doodle

Reimagining the Art Market With Shlomi Rabi of Greenhouse Auctions (Part 2)

Traditional Japanese Art From the Last Three Centuries Comes to Auction With Bonhams

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Writer
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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