Flash News: Christie’s took $330 million and Phillips expect $70 million for Basquiat


Christie’s took $330 million on 1 March

This week Christie’s hosted its first major sales of 20th and 21st Century Art of the year, with results confirming trends seen in recent months. Its Art of the Surreal evening sale in London was clearly dominated by René Magritte, whose five works fetched a total of $16.9 million. Meanwhile its Shanghai branch offered works by a number of major international signatures including Boafo, Chagall, Figgis, Kaws and Basquiat whose Il Duce (1982) (152 x 152 cm) fetched nearly $15 million, a remarkable result for the very first Basquiat painting offered in mainland China after the artist’s recent successes in Hong Kong.

Christie’s London session (which took $242 million on 1 March) was marked by a superb result for the German Expressionist painter Franz MARC (1880-1916) with an impressive new record at $56.65 million for a work titled The Foxes (1913). This result doubled his previous auction record hammered in 2008 for Weidende Pferde III.

The much-anticipated triptych by Francis BACON fetched $51 million, within its estimate range, joining the 10 best-selling Bacon triptychs. The figure in the left panel is inspired by a press clipping of US President Woodrow Wilson quitting negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles in 1919; the right panel is inspired by a photograph of Leon Trotsky’s study taken after his assassination in 1940. In the center is a figure resembling John Edwards, Bacon’s partner at the time.

All hosted on 1 March, the three Christie’s sales generated a total turnover of $330 million.


A $70 million Basquiat arrives at Phillips

On Monday, the Russian auction house Phillips (which posted a record annual turnover of $993.3 million from auctions and private sales in 2021) announced the upcoming sale of a major canvas by Jean-Michel BASQUIAT from 1982 from the collection of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. Due to be auctioned on 18 May in New York, the painting looks set to become the most expensive artwork ever sold by Phillips, with an estimate of $70 million.

Maezawa acquired the painting six years ago at Christie’s New York for $57.2 million. The consignee was New York collector/dealer Adam Lindemann who bought the painting at Sotheby’s London in June 2004 for £2.4 million. A high profile figure in the art world, Maezawa is above all known for having paid $110.5 million in 2017 for another untitled 1982 Basquiat canvas at Sotheby’s New York, setting the American artist’s all-time auction record (Untitled).

Phillips – the world’s third art auction operator by turnover after Christie’s and Sotheby’s – is enjoying a period of strong growth. In 2021, it generated $993.3 million in annual sales, the highest annual total in its history. That total included $706 million from fine art, up 21% versus the pre-pandemic period (2019). The consignment of such a major Basquiat work proves that Phillips is now able to compete at the same level of prestige as its competitors Christie’s and Sotheby’s.