Hot Lots: 5 Works That Completely Upended Expectations During the 2023 March Day Sales in London

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While some of those watching the evening sales last week in London may have sneered about objects hitting the block being “day sale material,” we here at Artnet News Pro have long believed that watching the day sales can be just as exciting—if not more, than their night-time counterparts.

These lower-key affairs often function as a test of the market, and the eye-popping results they generate may foretell trends that take hold as the season progresses. Here are 5 lots that upended expectations at the day sales, and what we understand about what they mean.

 

Michaela Yearwood-Dan (b.1994)

Auction: Phillips, 20th Century and Contemporary Art Day Sale, March 3

Estimate: £25,000 – £35,000 ($30,095 – $42,133 )

Sold for: £279,400 ($335,595)

An earthy-toned floral tableau by the young Londoner of Caribbean heritage sold for more than 10 times its presale low estimate at Phillips in London last week. It was a steal compared to a more vibrant painting that fetched $883,889 two days earlier at Christie’s, doubling the artists’s previous auction record set in December.

Rapid price acceleration is common when speculators get involved. It’s also a sign of the growing distaste for straight figuration among collectors. Yearwood-Dan, who is Black and queer, made her auction debut just a year ago, and already eight paintings hit the block, all but one at Phillips. Six fetched more than $100,000—most way more. The artist has been working with Tiwani Contemporary in London, and Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York since 2021, when she had her first solo show in Chelsea. Around that time, a collector could snatch a large-scale diptych for around $40,000. Her second solo exhibition with the gallery opens in April with about 15 paintings.

Karin Mamma Andersson (b.1962)

(2005)

Karina Mamma Anderson, <i>On Tenterhooks</i> (2005). Courtesy Christie's.

Karina Mamma Anderson, On Tenterhooks (2005). Courtesy Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

Auction: Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale, March 1

Estimate: £180,000 – £250,000 ($216,507 – $300,705)

Sold for: £756,000 ($909,331)

The sale of this large-scale three-panel painting depicting a moody camping scene in the mountains set a new record price in British pounds for the Swedish artist (whose previous record of £517,250, or $1 million due to the exchange rate at the time, was achieved in 2008). Created in 2005, the same year the artist received the Carnegie Award for painting and two years after exhibiting at the 2003 Venice Biennale, the work first hit the auction block during a Christie’s London sale in 2014, but did not manage to find a buyer during the sale. Nine years later, it has resurfaced on the market, following new career highlights such as a solo show at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek in 2021. This time, it sold during the auction.

According to Anna Touzin, Christie’s head of sale, the work actually did sell back in 2014, in a direct after-sale just after the live auction had closed. That buyer then kept the painting for nine years before putting it back on the market.

“ is an exceptional painting by the artist—a vivid yet dreamlike atmospheric landscape, it is beautifully painted,” Touzin said, adding that the Louisiana Museum show “has contributed to generate more interest in her works.”

 

George Rouy (b. 1994)

George Rouy, Looking At Me Through Gaps Of Her Toes (2019). Courtesy of Christie's.

George Rouy, Looking At Me Through Gaps Of Her Toes (2019). Courtesy of Christie’s.

Auction: Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale, March 1

Estimate: £50,000 to £70,000 ($60,051 – $84,071)

Sold for: £163,000 ($195,790)

The second lot of the day sale knocked expectations out of the park with the figurative piece selling for more than double its high estimate, and setting a new auction record for the artist, whose debut was in 2021. The work was originally purchased from V1 Gallery in Denmark, the same year it was made. The London-based artist had his first solo show with Almine Rech in Paris in November of last year, and is represented officially by Peres Projects.

Rouy mainly paints nude figures as a way to explore sexuality and the evolution of the nude figure throughout art history. The 29 year-old artist studied at Camberwell College of Arts and received his BFA in 2015. Since then, his work has been on view at institutions such as X Museum in Beijing and Fondation Cartier in Paris.

 

Philip Tsiaras
Astrologer (from Topology series) (1990)

Philip Tsiaras, Astrologer (from Topology series) (1990). Image courtesy Christie's.

Philip Tsiaras, Astrologer (from Topology series) (1990). Image courtesy Christie’s.

Auction: Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale, March 1

Estimate: £10,000 to £15,000 ($12,000 to $18,000)

Sold for: £126,000 ($151,700)

Tsiaras’s name may be new to some but the Greek-born artist, who lives and work in New York has had more than 80 solo exhibitions since 1974. He works in a wide range of media, including painting, photography, glass, ceramic, and bronze.

This is by far the highest result of the six works listed in the Artnet Price Database. The next highest price result is $878 for a mixed media collage sold at auction in 2012. So what drove the extravagant price hike?

“Tsarias has a following across the primary market and this example had museum history as an additional appeal to collectors,” said Isabel Millar, a specialist in Christie’s postwar and contemporary art department in London. “The result for this work is situated in the context seen across the Day Sale platform for previously under-recognised mid- to late-career artists including Scott Kahn, Karin Mamma Andersson and Ernie Barnes.”

 

Duncan McCormick (b. 1977)

Red Tree House (2020)

Duncan McCormick, Red Tree House (2020). Courtesy of Phillips.

Duncan McCormick, Red Tree House (2020). Courtesy of Phillips.

Auction: Phillips, 20th Century and Contemporary Art Day Sale, March 3

Estimate: £10,000 – £15,000 ($11,994 – $17,992 )

Sold for: £152,400 ($182,799)

It isn’t an exaggeration to call Duncan McCormick an international man of mystery at this point. Aside from his birthdate and residence in Shropshire, U.K., the only other line item in the bio on the painter’s personal website is that he held a single exhibition, titled “Far Breeze: Paintings by Duncan Robert McCormick,” at Waterhouse and Dodd gallery in London in 2022. Curiously, Waterhouse and Dodd’s website makes no mention of the exhibition, though the gallery did offer McCormick’s whimsical, candy-colored landscapes, suburb-scapes, and interiors at the 2023 editions of Art Palm Beach and the Palm Beach Show. (As part of the former event, Waterhouse and Dodd even dedicated an online viewing room to McCormick.)

The gallery (which operates a location on East 76th Street in New York, too) did not reply to an email inquiry about its history with McCormick, his representation status with the gallery, or what might have accounted for Red Tree House bringing more than 10X its high estimate after fees in its record-setting performance at Phillips last week. What we do know is that the result wasn’t an anomaly. None of the four McCormick paintings offered at auction to date has been estimated to sell for more than £15,000—and yet, none has gone for less than £119,700 (just shy of $146,500 at the time), according to the Artnet Price Database. All four works mounted the auction block between December 8, 2022 and March 3, 2023, and all were acquired directly from the artist by whomever consigned them to the auction houses, deepening the market intrigue around McCormick’s sudden rise.

Tim Schneider

 

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