Around the Auction World: November 2021
For many, November signaled autumn’s twilight and the beginning of winter. It was also another exciting month in the auction industry as major works came up for bid in New York’s marquee sales. And beyond these record-breaking events, bidders of all stripes pursued category-specific collectibles such as antique dinnerware, Star Wars figurines from the late 1970s, and everything turkey ahead of Thanksgiving. Here are the top headlines from around the auction world this November.
November witnessed exceptional sale results from around the auction world as the largest houses hosted their New York marquee weeks. Sotheby’s led the way with the hotly-anticipated Macklowe Collection. Widely regarded as a trial of resilience in the high-end art market, the white-glove auction achieved USD 676.1 million. It was reportedly the highest-grossing auction in Sotheby’s history. Other notable results arrived later in the week, including a new record for Frida Kahlo (and Latin American artists), a fierce battle for a first printing copy of the United States Constitution, and new records for emerging artists. Sotheby’s marquee week totaled a historic $1.33 billion.
Competitors Christie’s and Phillips also flexed their resilience in the recovering art market. Phillips brought in $137.9 million, a house record, during its 20th Century and Contemporary Art auction. With this event, the company strengthened its reputation as a launch point for rising young artists. It established new highs for Shara Hughes, Ewa Juszkiewicz, and others. Additionally, Phillips presented the largest single-owner jewelry auction in company history at its Hong Kong location. Earlier in the month, Christie’s turned out strong results for the Cox Collection ($332 million), a 20th-Century Evening Sale ($419.9 million), and a 21st-Century Evening Sale ($219.3 million).
These results reflect a degree of stability at the top of the market as companies transition back to live and in-person events. And as Collins Dictionary names “NFT” the word of the year for 2021, the latest wave of auctions reflects a permanent shift toward cryptocurrency. Bidders now have opportunities to buy with Ethereum, and digital art stars are quickly making their way into mainstream auction catalogs.
Auction Daily contributor Rebekah Kaufman surveyed the best seasonal gems from around the auction world in our 2021 Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt. The top lot of the season was Norman Rockwell’s Home for Thanksgiving. This iconic image appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on November 24, 1945. Heritage Auctions sold the piece for $4.31 million, on the lower end of its presale estimate. Bonhams’ Pop x Culture auction, held on November 11, also gave collectors the opportunity to own a piece of history. The auction yielded strong results for Pop Art icons such as Andy Warhol, as well as contemporary stars like Banksy and Damien Hirst.
Auction Daily dove into the world of U.S. Navy collectibles ahead of a major diving helmets auction from Nation’s Attic, Inc. The key lots included a helium Mark V helmet nicknamed “the Widow Maker,” as well as examples from A. J. Morse and Siebe Gorman. We also reviewed Hindman’s Dining at Home auction of elegant dinnerware. The sale achieved strong results for Rothschild Bird settings by Herend, Royal Copenhagen’s Flora Danica plates, and modern designs from Laney K. Oxman.
This November, French auction house Artcurial presented the latest works of contemporary African art from across the continent in a dedicated sale. The event brought in EUR 672,740 (USD 761,700) with top lots from William Kentridge, Aboudia, and Pilipili Mulongoy. Elsewhere in the market, Millea Bros. Ltd. prepared to auction a 1975 piece by the late Israeli painter Yosl Bergner. Auction Daily tracked his career ahead of the December sale, from the shtetls of Poland to the newly-established art scene of 1940s Israel.
Bonhams announced plans to offer a long-hidden painting from René Magritte this auction season. Torse nu dans les nuages spent seven decades away from the public eye. It mainly resided in the collection of art patron and socialite Amalia de Schulthess. This notable work from the Belgian Surrealist painter builds upon Magritte’s strong visual vocabulary of sculptural torsos, too-perfect clouds, and idealized seascapes.
Quote of the Month
“It is, after all, easier to have a sculpture in an apartment than to have a real sheep. And, it’s even better if you can sit on it.”
– François-Xavier Lalanne on his famous sheep sculptures, available in Freeman’s Modern and Contemporary Art sale