May has so-far ushered in a record-smashing season of auctions. Led by the stunning $120 million sale of Edvard Munch's "Scream," the highest price ever paid for art at auction, a multitude of artist price records have fallen. Nearly $1.5 billion of art was sold in 2 weeks at three New York auction houses: Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips de Pury.
The latest headliner is Jean Michel Basquiat's ‘Untitled” (1981), from the collection of Robert Lehman, which doubled its low estimate to fetch $16 million at a $87 million Phillips sale.
Also last week, Christie's achieved the highest amount ever in the category of post-war and contemporary art with a $388 million evening sale. A Mark Rothko brought $87 million, among 14 auction records in the sale, and the most expensive post-war artwork to date. The sale also boasted the priciest collection of post-war and contemporary art at auction with the Pincus collection bringing $175 million.
Sotheby's sale was bolstered by Roy Lichtenstein's Pop art icon "Sleeping Girl," which set a new
auction record for the artist at $44.9 million.
Buyers were choosy though. Lesser works, or less "important" works, by blue-chip artists such as Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Gerhard Richter, Willem de Kooning, and others, went near their low estimates or failed to sell.
This week begins the series of American art auctions in New York.