World records for American art
OVER THE PAST DECADE, AMERICAN ART, SPANNING HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL LANDSCAPES AND STILL LIFES TO AMERICAN MODERNISM, HAS ESTABLISHED WORLD RECORDS FOR WORKS OF THESE PERIODS. AT CHRISTIE’S AUCTION HOUSE , NEW YORK, SPECIFICALLY, LOCATED AT 20 ROCKEFELLER CENTER, IN A BEAUTIFUL LANDMARK BUILDING, THE AMERICAN PAINTING, SCULPTURE AND WORKS ON PAPER DEPARTMENT HAS SET OVER 100 WORLD RECORDS AT AUCTION, AMONG THEM THE SALE OF AN IMPECCABLY RENDERED 19th CENTURY AMERICAN LANDSCAPE BY THOMAS MORAN, GREEN RIVER OF WYOMING, THAT REALIZED A PREMIUM PRICE OF $17,737.00. OTHER WORLD RECORDS INCLUDE THE ENCHANTING AMERICAN IMPRESSIONIST PAINTING BY MARY CASSATT ENTITLED CHILDREN PLAYING WITH A DOG ($6,200,000) AND ANDREW WYETH’S POIGNANT ERICKSONS ($10,344,000).
WORKS OF EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY OF 19TH CENTURY AMERICAN PAINTING HAVE BECOME INCREASINGLY RARE TO THE MARKET AS MANY ARE IN DESCEND IN TH E FAMILIES OF PRIVATE COLLECTORS OR HAVE BEEN DONATED TO MUSEUMS. A PERIOD THAT PARTICULARLY RESONATES WITH ME DOCUMENTS AND EULOGIZES AMERICA ‘S EARLIER PIONEER SPIRIT OF FREEDOM AND EXPLORATION. THUS, I ANTICIPATE WITH PLEASURE THE SALE OF A N EXCEPTIONAL PAINTING BY SANFORD GIFFORD, SUNDAY MORNING IN THE CAPE OF THE SEVENTH REGIMENT NEAR WASHINGTON, D.C., IN MAY 1861. THIS WORK WAS INCLUDED IN A MEMORABLE EXHIBITION THAT TRAVELED FROM THE SMITHSONIAN TO THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM, “THE CIVIL WAR AND AMERICAN ART” . THE SHOW EXPLORED THE RESPONSE OF AMERICAN ARTISTS TO THE WAR AND ITS AFTERMATH WITH LANDSCAPES MORE POIGNANT AND POWERFUL THAN TRADITIONAL HISTORY PAINTINGS THAT CAPTURED THE WAR’S IMPACT ON THE AMERICAN COUNTRYSIDE AND PSYCHE.
IN TODAY’S BLOG, ELIZABETH BEAMAN, SENIOR SPECIALIST OF AMERICAN ART AT CHRISTIE’S WILL SHARE HER KNOWLEDGE AND LOVE OF THE RICHNESS AND SCOPE OF AMERICAN ART, SPANNING TWO CENTURIES AND A DIVERSITY OF STYLES, HISTORICAL EVENTS AND STYLISTIC EVOLUTIONS AND REVOLUTIONS.
LIZ, THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE LRFA BLOG.
TO CONTINUE OUR DISCUSSION OF THE PROCESS OF ASSEMBLING AN AUCTION SALE, LET’S ALSO EXPLORE OTHER ALTERNATIVES OF BUYING AND SELLING WORKS VIA THE AUCTION HOUSE. I KNOW THAT IN THE POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY DEPARTMENTS, PRIVATE SALES HAVE GAINED ENORMOUSLY IN IMPORTANCE AS A CRUCIAL AND EXTREMELY LUCRATIVE PART OF THE AUCTION HOUSE BUSINESS. WHAT IS THE PERCENTAGE IN THE AMERICAN ART DEPARTMENT BETWEEN AUCTION AND PRIVATE SALES?
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WITH THE CONSIGNOR THE MORE APPROPRIATE VENUE?
Private sales are an important part of our market as well. When we are engaged in discussions with a client to sell a particular work or collection of works, we will discuss the two methods of sale, auction versus private, and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each.
AMERICAN ART COVERS TWO CENTURIES AND A WIDE AND DIVERSE RANGE OF STYLES. WHAT WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE AS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERIODS OF AMERICAN ART? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE?
That is what makes this field so exciting! We literally cover the entire history of American Art from portraits of our founding fathers to the avant garde artists of the Stieglitz circle. Each auction can tell a story about the history of our nation through the images that we sell. I do have some favorite artists but really I develop favorites each season. There is always something new with which to fall in love!
I NOTED WITH PLEASURE THE EXTRAORDINARILY BEAUTIFUL AND RATHER RARE WEALTH OF 19th CENTURY AMERICAN IMPRESSIONIST PAINTINGS IN YOUR MAY SALE. WHAT IS THE RESPONSE OF THIS GENERATION OF COLLECTORS TO THAT PERIOD? DO YOU FIND THAT 20th CENTURY MODERNISM IS THE MORE SOUGHT AFTER PERIOD NOW?
I think we are experiencing such a dynamic market place right now that trends and particular tastes are shifting more frequently and at a much faster pace than ever before. That said, 20th century Modernism has been consistently strong in recent years and we are seeing a lot of participation from collectors who traditionally collect Impressionist & Modern Art from Europe and Post-War and Contemporary Art, which has really helped bolster this sector of the market.
OVER THE PAST DECADE, THE AMERICAN ART DEPARTMENT HAS SET WORLD RECORDS AT AUCTION AND BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT IN ITS REPRESENTATION OF THIS AREA OF COLLECTING. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST NOTABLE, BREAKING SALES?
We have seen a dramatic shift in prices for American Art over the last few decades. The first painting to break $1,000,000 at auction was Frederic Church’s Icebergs which sold in 1982. In a relatively short time period, you have the sale of Thomas Eakins’ The Gross Clinic for $68,000,000. That is a tremendous accomplishment and I think speaks volumes to the market really valuing the importance of the works that we sell as icons of our cultural heritage.
Over the past few seasons, it has been exciting to see the work of Edward Hopper perform so well, first with the sale of October on Cape Cod for $9.6 million to an online bidder and then, this past May, with Blackwell’s Island for $19.2 million. The recent exhibition held in Paris of Hopper’s work was the best attended show ever at the Grand Palais, which bodes well for interest in Hopper and his contemporaries in international markets.
I AM SURE THE DEPARTMENT IS EXCITED TO OFFER A REMARKABLE HOPPER IN THE DECEMBER SALE. AS ITS STAR LOT. CHRISTIE’S WILL OFFER EAST WIND OVER WEEHAWKEN, CREATED SHORTLY AFTER HOPPER’S 1933 RETROSPECTIVE AT THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART IN NEW YORK. THIS PAINTING COMES FROM THE PRESTIGIOUS COLLECTION OF THE PENNSYLVANIA ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS AND THE PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE WILL BE USED TO CREATE A NEW ENDOWMENT FOR THE MUSEUM.
IN OUR NEXT BLOG, LIZ WILL SHARE HER EXPERT VIEW ON THE MARKET IN AMERICAN ART, BOTH HERE IN THE STATES AND ON THE GLOBAL PLAYING FIELD. SHE GENEROUSLY WILL ANSWER ANY AND ALL QUESTIONS AND I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR COMMENTS AND RESPONSE.