New York's contemporary art sales shock market with staggering $693.5 million total

Jeff Wall photograph sells for $993,000, Martin tops $2.8 million

Setting a new record for a contemporary work of art sold at auction was Francis Bacon's "Triptych" from 1976 that sold for $86,281,000 US at Sotheby's New York on May 14.
Setting a new record for a work by a living artist sold at auction was Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping. Painted in 1995 it sold at Christie's New York on May 13 for $33,641,000 US.
A 'forgotten' Canadian artist who made Taos, New Mexico her home was Agnes Martin who became one of the leading figures in the contemporary American art market. Her 60" x 60" canvas Untitled #1 sold at Sotheby's, May 14 for $2,841,000 US.

New York – For the doomsayers who were predicting the demise of the art market this week as Sotheby’s and Christie’s offered their important Contemporary Art sales in New York amidst economic chaos in the US, it was a disappointing week. The two rooms combined for an exceptional $693,459,600 US which, as you might expect, saw records flying all over the place. The art market, it appears, is not just healthy, but robust!


Landmark prices – and there were many – include a new record price for a living artist when Lucian Freud’s (grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud) Benefits Supervisor Sleeping a 1995 life-size portrait sold for $33.6 million US at Christie’s on May 13. On May 14 at Sotheby’s, a new record for a contemporary painting sold at auction was set when a 1976 Triptych by Francis Bacon fetched a phenomenal $86.3 million US.


Not to be left out, Canadian artist Jeff Wall set a new record when his The Forest, a 94” x 119” silver gelatin print from 2001 (illustrated right) found a buyer at an amazing $993,000 US at Sotheby’s against a $600/800,000 estimate. Wall’s previous best was around $300,000 US set in 2005. Also representing Canada, although now considered more American than Canadian, is Agnes Martin (1912-2004) who moved to Taos New Mexico many years ago and has since become recognised as one of the most important female figures in the American contemporary art market. Martin's Untitled #1 canvas from 1996 sold for $2,841,000 US.


The outstanding week’s results prompted one New York dealer to ask “Recession? What recession?” Let’s hope the buoyancy of the New York market rubs off on its Canadian counterpart over the next week as we prepare for our annual spring season extravaganza.


Important Canadian & International Works of Art

Date: March, 2013

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