• News
  • Jul 02, 2020

Virtual Evening Sales At Sotheby's Rake In Hundreds Of Millions

Auction house Sotheby’s completed its marquee Contemporary Art Evening Sale, and Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale virtually on June 29. The two sales and one other single-owner sale collectively realized USD 363.2 million.

The New York sales were conducted remotely in London by auctioneer and Europe chairman Oliver Barker, who auctioneered to a set of TV monitors showing Sotheby’s specialists on phone banks from Hong Kong, London, and New York. The three evening sales took almost five hours, synchronizing phone bids with online ones.

The Ginny Williams Collection Evening Sale kicked off the event, selling all 18 lots for USD 65.5 million, above the high estimate of USD 51.7 million. The star lot was American painter Lee Krasner’s abstraction Re-Echo (1957), hammering at USD 9.03 million, well above its high estimate of USD 6 million. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets V.A.T. (1959), a rhythmic pattern of black and neon yellow, met its high estimate of USD 1 million and fetched USD 1.16 million.

The following Contemporary Art Evening Auction made USD 234.9 million with 29 out of 30 lots, led by Francis Bacon’s extensively exhibited and documented triptych painting, Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981), which went above its high estimate of USD 80 million to sell for USD 84.6 million. The bidding lasted 10 minutes between an online bidder from China and a client bidding by phone. Notably, the late Chinese-Canadian artist Matthew Wong’s oil-on-canvas The Realm of Appearances (2018) soared past its estimate of USD 80,000, making USD 1.82 million. The richly colored vista of a red meadow marked an auction record for the artist, who died last year by suicide at the age of 35.

Meanwhile, the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, which brought in USD 62.8 million for 22 of the 26 lots, was led by Cuban artist Wifredo Lam’s Omi Obini (1943), an anthropomorphic landscape of the Caribbean. The oil-on-canvas hammered within estimates, achieving USD 9.6 million.

Due to the Covid-19 induced disruption to live auctions, auction houses have resorted to alternatives including online sales in recent months, with some achieving record results. Auction houses in Hong Kong including Sotheby’s have similarly witnessed a pause since the beginning of the year, with live sales from the house, along with those from Christie’s, Phillips, Bonhams, and Poly Auction to resume in the city next week.

Christie’s is set to launch its own multi-city auction on July 10, titled ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century. Spread across Hong Kong, Paris, London, and New York, the relay format sale will replace the house’s 20th Century Evening sale, previously scheduled for June in New York, and will stage auctioneers in each of the four salesrooms.

Jae Lamb is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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