Christie’s 20th Century: Hong Kong to New York Auction Achieves New Heights

Shreeya Maskey
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Christie’s 20th Century: Hong Kong to New York auction came to a successful end on December 2nd, 2020, breaking sale records for seven of the featured artists. With an 82% sell-through rate, the event reports sales results of USD 119.3 million (HKD 920.4 million). The auction was the spotlight of the annual Autumn Auction Series in Hong Kong.

Dana Schutz (B. 1976), Elevator. oil on canvas. Sold for USD 6,457,751 on 2 December 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Image from Christie’s.
Dana Schutz (B. 1976), Elevator. oil on canvas. Sold for USD 6,457,751 on 2 December 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Image from Christie’s.

Among the auction’s highlighted lots was an oil on canvas piece from Dana Schutz. Titled Elevator, this painting from the Expressionist American artist had a pre-sale estimate of HKD 15,000,000 to HKD 20,000,000. After 10 minutes of bidding, it sold for HKD 50,050,000 (USD 6,457,751), double the presale estimate.

This result sets a new auction record for Schutz, triple the previous one set in 2019. Schutz’s work has recently seen continuous growth in the art market. She launched her career in 2002 with her first solo exhibition at New York’s LFL Gallery. This show helped draw attention to her distinctive style, which stands between cubism and German expressionism. She mostly depicts surreal subjects in her work. “…I often invent imaginative systems and situations to generate information,” Schutz stated. “These situations usually delineate a site where making is a necessity, audiences potentially don’t exist, objects transcend their function and reality is malleable.”

Executed in 2017, this piece draws on metanarratives, a word used by the artist to describe the underlying stories behind her whimsical paintings. The painting shows distorted images of limbs, faces, and bodies rushing to fill an elevator while its doors are closing in. “Schutz’s brushwork fragments objects and bodies into bold, geometric planes, structuring all this chaos with crystalline painterly logic,” the auction house wrote in the painting’s lot essay.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Pierreuse, 1889. Oil on canvas. Sold for USD 9,062,000 on 2 December 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Image from Christie’s.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Pierreuse, 1889. Oil on canvas. Sold for USD 9,062,000 on 2 December 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Image from Christie’s.

A painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, an artist known for his depictions of the Parisian streets, also drove strong bids. Followed by fierce competition between bidders for 8 minutes, Toulouse-Lautrec’s 1889 piece titled Pierreuse, sold for USD 9,062,000. In recent years, many of his works have been offered online by Christie’s. The artist’s previous auction record was achieved in 2005 with the same auction house. Toulouse-Lautrec’s prints and paintings have since become one of the most coveted works in the art market.

This piece displays Toulouse-Lautrec’s Post-Impressionist style, with loose, expressive brushwork and seemingly random use of colors. The lot depicts one of the artist’s favorite models, Carmen Gaudin, who became his muse throughout the 1880s. In the portrait, Gaudin looks away from the viewer. Dressed in a black dress and shawl, she can be seen standing amid what seems to be a park or a street. Describing his work, Christie’s writes, “…his portraits of Carmen and other working class figures showed the artist exploring a greater psychological depth, expressing the inner world of his subjects with a novel clarity and monumentality, as Pierreuse shows.”

Shara Hughes (B. 1981), High Waters. Oil and acrylic on canvas. Sold for USD 6,457,751 on 2 December 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Image from Christie’s.
Shara Hughes (B. 1981), High Waters. Oil and acrylic on canvas. Sold for USD 6,457,751 on 2 December 2020 at Christie’s in New York. Image from Christie’s.

The event marks the beginning of Christie’s 20th Century marquee week in New York. Notable lots from the auction included a Shara Hughes painting that fetched HKD 4,125,000 (USD 6,457,751). The price exceeded the estimates of HKD 15,000,000 to 20,000,000. Georges Mathieu’s Souvenir de la maison d’Autriche (1978) achieved HKD 17,290,000 (USD 2,230,859), which soared above its high estimate of HKD 14,000,000 to 24,000,000.

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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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