Mega-gallery Hauser and Wirth’s first foray into the auction realm was a resounding success, with the nearly $4.6 million sale total more than doubling expectations, and setting new records for two artists. The auction was organized under the gallery’s series of charitable initiatives, “Art for Better,” and the entirety of the hefty sum raised through the one-week online sale will go to benefit the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.
“We are really thrilled with the outcome,” gallery president Marc Payot told Artnet News in a phone interview. And despite the gallery’s experiment with the auction sales strategy for primary market works, he stressed the difference in the context for the initiative. “What is really different from an auction house is that we are donating 100 percent of the proceeds. There is nothing deducted or taken as premium. This is in line with our other philanthropic initiatives that we have started under the ‘Art for Better’ series,” he noted.
The star-studded lineup of a dozen new and recent works were all donated by some of the most prestigious names on the gallery’s artist roster: Rita Ackermann, Larry Bell, Frank Bowling, George Condo, Martin Creed, Günther Förg, Rashid Johnson, Glenn Ligon, Angel Otero, Thomas J Price, Avery Singer, and Anj Smith.
All 12 were sold. Rather than estimates, the works carried reserves—the minimum level at which a work could sell—which ran from $30,000 to $500,000, with a minimum goal to raise $2 million for the auction total. The final result more than doubled that. Payot said the bidding activity picked up considerably towards the end of the sale, which closed yesterday, with demand coming from the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
With prices no doubt lifted by the compelling offer of primary market access, as well as the charity element to the sale, auction records were set for artists Rita Ackermann and Anj Smith, and the gallery noted new highs for prices on specific sizes of works by Avery Singer and Rashid Johnson.
Ackermann’s (2022), sold for $400,000, surpassing her secondary market record of $115,500, set at Phillips in 2018, according to the Artnet Price Database. And a painting by Anj Smith (2011-2020) sold for a record $120,000, trouncing her $46,366 record set at Phillips in 2020.
Singer’s new work (2022), sold for $1.4 million, while Rashid Johnson’s (2021), a work from the artist’s new series, sold for $1.2 million.
Other highlights included a George Condo work on paper, (2022) that sold for $650,000, and Angel Otero’s (2022) sold for $250,000. Frank Bowling’s (2011), sold for $180,000, while a cube sculpture from Larry Bell, (2022), sold for $150,000.
Payot was equal parts happy and relieved that venturing into the novel sales territory yielded such promising results. “It was very risky in the sense that it’s the first time a commercial gallery organized an auction without an auction house,” said Payot. “We are thrilled with it.”
Gallery co-founder Iwan Wirth called the results a “testament to the extraordinary generosity of our artists and the global network of collectors who have supported this essential humanitarian cause at a time when help is so greatly needed.”