Two blockbuster weeks of marquee evening sales ended in Manhattan on Thursday night with two auctions of rising stars and established contemporary names that raised a combined $283.4 million and smashed 11 records for artists, including six by women. The total for various spring sales at Christie's andPhillips was more than $2.5 billion.
The Macklowe sale made nearly a billion dollars, according to the New York dealer David Benrimon.
Benrimon said people look to invest in art when stock markets plummet. It is more tangible. The market for art is strong.
The top end of the art market seems to be booming despite the recent slide in stocks, as evidenced by the company record for a public sale byPhillips on Wednesday night.
The results seemed to support the upbeat assessment of the latest annual Art Basel, which said international art sales had rebounded strongly from the coronaviruses.
The collapse of the market for NFTs was noted by some experts as a sign that the art world would once again be affected by events in the wider world.
Doug Woodham is the managing partner of Art Fiduciary Advisors, a New York-based firm that provides art-related financial advice.
Woodham and many other market watchers have noted the large amounts of international capital that has been invested in works by young up-and-coming painters, some of which have yielded massive short-term returns for speculators.
According to data provided by Artprice, the global sales of paintings by artists under 40 increased by 177 percent in 2020.
A new format called "The Now" sales was created by Sotheby's to focus on works by the most coveted names of the moment. This was supposed to be the warm-up act for the main sale of works by established contemporary artists, but with so much attention and money being focused on younger names, this was the evening.
The staff of the auction house screamed telephone bids as Lot 1 of the 2020 painting by New York-based artist Anna Weyant set the tone. It sold to an online bidder for $1.6 million, beating the record for the artist at Christie's last week.
The market for works by younger artists was dominated by female and artists of color. For the first time, female artists outnumbered men at one of its auctions.
The life-size mixed media female head was part of the representation of the United States at the Venice Biennale. The hammer fell at a record $2.2 million, 10 times the upper estimate, after another feeding frenzy of phone competition.
The paintings of Los Angeles-based Christina Quarles have impressed critics and visitors at the central exhibition. She had a canvas that went to a record $4.5 million. The previous high for her works was $685,500.
Nine artists reached new highs in the sale, which raised $72.9 million. The two American painters who broke the record were both under the age of 40.
Over the last five years, so much money has gone into young and midcareer artists.
With the financial stakes raised, Christie's and other auction houses tried to protect their high-profile lots from failure with guaranteed minimum prices. Eight of the 27 lots on offer were certain to sell.
The big-ticket lot of the night was Francis Bacon's imposing, gold-framed painting, Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd Version 1971. It sold for $46.3 million.
Two records were set in this second session. Sean Scully achieved a new high. A harmony of blue, yellow and orange stripes by Scully ended the sale on a high with a price of $2 million.
The last of a marathon series of evening auctions raised $210.5 million from 27 lots. After the excitement of the sale, bidding was noticeably more subdued.
The president of Dickinson, a New York-based private advisers and fine art dealers, said that the second sale was less competitive than the first because of high estimates. The tastes were changing.
The works produced by the world's most famous contemporary artists who have either died or are over age 40 are the new traditional.
Though this spring series of auctions couldn't be characterized as anything other than a success, art trade professionals expressed concern about the market over the coming few months, particularly if rising inflation and interest rates close the tap on free money.
The problem with art markets is supply, not demand, according to Todd Levin.
He said prices for art don't drop as much as people think. They disappear. They stay on the walls.