Around the Auction World: March 2021

James Ardis
Published on
Images from around the auction world this month. Left and right image from Christie’s. Middle image from Squawk on the Street. Collage by Heemin Moon (Auction Daily).
Images from around the auction world this month. Left and right image from Christie’s. Middle image from Squawk on the Street. Collage by Heemin Moon (Auction Daily).

NFTs undoubtedly ruled the headlines across the auction industry this month. Whether amazed, angry, or confused by the trend, everyone had something to say. Time will tell if other NFTs can match or break the record set at Christie’s in March, as Sotheby’s and other auction houses plan their responses. 

Christie’s broke other records this month, including one for a Western artwork sold in Asia. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Warrior inspired a six-minute bidding war, eventually selling for USD 41.8 million in Hong Kong. The sale was one of several opportunities this month to celebrate the work of Black artists, which Auction Daily was happy to report on last month

From NFTs to Warrior, Auction Daily takes a look back at the top headlines from around the auction world in March 2021.

Industry Trends

Although digital art and NFTs have been around for years, Christie’s sale of Beeple’s EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS for a whopping $69.3 million forced many in the auction industry and beyond to finally reckon with their presence. Here’s how media sources presented NFTs and Beeple in the wake of the sale.

Sotheby’s announced a partnership with digital artist Pak as its first step into digital art and NFTs. However, many question marks still surround Pak, and the industry knows little about the upcoming sale.

The Turn by Pak. Image from the Gallery of Crypto Art.
The Turn by Pak. Image from the Gallery of Crypto Art.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Warrior achieved USD 41.8 million at Christie’s Hong Kong. That was not only a record for a Western art piece sold on the continent, but also a reminder of the steady growth auction houses are seeing across Asia.

In a major push towards environmental sustainability, Christie’s aims to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. But the auction house’s recent embrace of NFTs and cryptocurrencies could set back its efforts.

Japanese Garden 3 by Jonas Wood, which sold in 2019 with Christie’s to benefit tropical forest conservation. Photo from the auction house.
Japanese Garden 3 by Jonas Wood, which sold in 2019 with Christie’s to benefit tropical forest conservation. Photo from the auction house.

Auction Highlights

Many of the auction industry’s major players came together for the 12th annual Asia Week New York. While press coverage was muted, the sales broke several auction records. That included a new record for Katsushika Hokusai, achieved by Christie’s.

Gratz Gallery used its Fine American Paintings Sale as an opportunity to celebrate the life and work of Bernard Harmon, an important Black artist, teacher, and advocate.

Meanwhile, “Chicago’s Hip-Hop Art Star,” Hebru Brantley, headlined Heritage Auctions’ recent Urban Art sale.

Blue FlyBoy by Hebru Brantley. Photo from Heritage Auctions.
Blue FlyBoy by Hebru Brantley. Photo from Heritage Auctions.

Just as the conversation swelled around NFTs at auction, SuperRare and Verisart announced a partnership that would bring ten digital artworks to auction over ten weeks. Shepard Fairey, Petra Cortright, and Michael Joo are among the artists who have been (or will be) represented in the series.

Quote of the Month 

“I can say non-fungible… what is it? Uh, non-fungible…” 

– Co-host of CNBC’s Squawk on the Street  

More Highlights From the Month

Thiebaud, Ruscha, & Dumas: Major Works Available at Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated Sale

Artist to Know: Toko Shinoda

Collection of Books by Lawrence Ferlinghetti Comes to Auction Shortly After Poet’s Death

The State of the Decorative Arts Market With David Rago 

Christie’s Private Sale Explores the Human Figure in Contemporary Art

Genji by Toko Shinoda. Photo from Sotheby’s.
Genji by Toko Shinoda. Photo from Sotheby’s.
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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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