Last Friday, Sotheby’s 2018 auctions of Contemporary Art commenced in New York with Contemporary Curated, which achieved $26.4 million — exceeding its high estimate of $26.1 million, and marking the highest total for the series since Sotheby’s Curated sales began in 2014. The auction was led by Jasper Johns’s Untitled work on paper from 1983, which established a new record for a monotype by the artist when it bested its high estimate to sell for $2.5 million (estimate $1.5/2 million). Emerging from his Drawings Paintings series, George Condo’s Rainy Day Butler from 2012 sold to applause when it achieved an outstanding $2.4 million — double its high estimate and the second highest auction price for the artist. A new artist record for Sam Gilliam, and strong prices for works by Wayne Thiebaud, Adriana Varejao and Andy Warhol also anchored the exceptional results.
Charlotte Van Dercook, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated auctions in New York, commented: “We are thrilled with the outstanding results from last Friday’s sale in New York. There were a number of highlights throughout the two sessions: from establishing a new artist record for Sam Gilliam and the record for a Jasper Johns monotype, to setting the second highest price for a painting by George Condo and enthusiastic participation from online bidders. We look forward to building upon this success as we continue to grow our Curated sales, and are excited to use this momentum as we look to London for our Contemporary auctions this week.”
A radiant example of Jasper Johns’s iconic crosshatching method, Untitled from 1983 emanates from the artist’s rare series of eighteen unique monotypes created in West Islip, New York. It was not until this particular series that he employed the monotype on a monumental level and exercised an unprecedented sense of technical innovation within his printing technique. In the present work, the contrast between moments of pure and impure pattern evidenced in both the all-over composition and in the individual hatchmarks punctuates Johns’s ongoing negotiation between control and chance. As such, the work highlights his effort to merge the mechanical with the handmade.
The work was offered during a particularly popular time for Johns’s, following the publication of his catalogue raisonné in April 2017 and the comprehensive survey exhibition Jasper Johns: ‘Something Resembling Truth’ which is now on view at The Broad museum in Los Angeles, following the Royal Academy of Arts’ exhibition last Fall.
George Condo’s Rainy Day Butler from 2012 discloses his ability to effortlessly employ line, form, and color to conjure a climate that is simultaneously turbulent and calm. A searing expression of frenzied charcoal lines, lusciously textured neons and delicate washes of gray, the work departs from Condo’s more carefully planned portrait paintings, and synergizes the traditionally disparate processes of drawing and painting into one fluid gestural expression.
Works by Condo brought strong prices throughout today’s auction, with Rescue Scene (estimate $40/60,000) from 1998 achieving $375,000, and Group of Women from 2007 fetching $56,250 (estimate $20/30,000).
Sotheby’s holds three of the top five prices for works by the artist — a new auction record was established for Condo in November 2017 when Compression IV sold for $4,066,600 (estimate $800,000/1.2 million) during the Contemporary Art Day Auction.
Shattering the artist’s previous auction record, Sam Gilliam’s Untitled from 1968 achieved $885,000 — nearly triple its $300,000 high estimate. The work is a stunning and early example of the artist’s experimental floor paintings where he employs a beveled-edge stretcher and ‘‘soak stain’’ technique. The optical dimensionality of the surface of the work mirrors that of its physical shape, which with its beveled edges, projects forward from the wall, transcending the border between painting and sculpture.
Sotheby’s previously established a new auction record for the artist when it sold Rays for $684,500 (estimate $100/150,000) during the Contemporary Curated auction in September 2017.