Though the report in today’s New York Times that luxury retail sales in October had hit new highs for the year didn’t include the fine print market, it may as well have. Print auctions in New York roared back last week with works by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol powering the charge.
The Print Auctions
While print sales in April 2008 saw Sotheby’s fetching a total of $4.5 million and Christies just under $3 million, last week’s totals show Sotheby’s slamming the boards at $8,470,000 total (with 203 lots sold) and Christie’s trailing close behind at $7,605,000 (with 373 lots sold). These numbers are about par with results from a year ago, when Sotheby’s did $8,325,317 and Christie’s $8,165,662.
Sotheby’s provided the gunpowder with an outstanding selection of Picasso offerings. A beautifully toned aquatint La femme au tambourin (1939) fetched $554,500, which is a decent price for a print that, with one exception, has consistently clocked in at $500,000 since 2005. Also offered was a respectable example of Picasso’s linocut Buste de femme de jeune fille, d’apres Cranach. . . (1958), which brought $506,500, the second highest price the print has ever reached.
But the star of the Picasso offerings was the linocut Portrait de Jacqueline au Fauteuil (1958). One of only three proofs ever made of this unpublished print, this example, dedicated by the artist to his linocut printer Hidalgo Arnera, fetched $212,500. The buyer was an American collector. Over at Christie’s, dealers were happy to see the offerings of Picasso ceramics, which went mostly unsold at the last spring sales, draw robust prices on 20 lots.
Contemporary print dealers were also rather surprised to see Warhol prints shoot up once again to reclaim their place in the firmament. The iconic hot pink Marilyn (1967) fetched $158,500 at Sotheby’s, which was exactly the same price it sold for in October 2008. A 1972 Mao that had passed in May with an estimate of $35,000-$45,000 was reoffered and fetched an admirable $62,500.
Christie’s offered four "Reigning Queens" portfolios from 1985, and all the sets sold very well, with the "Queen Elizabeth II" portfolio zooming to $170,500, way over the $70,000-$90,000 presale estimate. Another highlight at Christie’s was an almost pristine example of Jasper Johns lead relief, Flag (1960), that brought $122,500, way above the estimate of $40,000-$60,000.
Both houses offered the iconic Johns’ silkscreen, Flag (1973), at the same estimate, $350,000-$550,000. Christie’s came first and the work passed without a whisper. Subsequently, Sotheby’s must have prevailed on its consignor to lower the reserve on his or her lot, or so observers surmised, and as a result it sold handily at $386,500 (including the buyer’s premium).
IFPDA Print Fair 09
This being "Print Week," collectors and dealers have been bustling about, attending both the IFPDA Print Fair 09 at the Park Avenue Armory, Nov. 5-8, 2009, as well as the Editions/Artist Book Fair at the X-Initiative space in Chelsea, Nov. 6-8, 2009.
Old Master dealer Alan Stone remarked that attendance at the IFPDA’s Wednesday night preview was the "best it was ever been." One reason may be that the opening night gala had no charity beneficiary (typically the Museum of Modern Art), and as a result admission tickets were much cheaper ($75, including a pass for the run of the event), allowing the hoi polloi as well as the high rollers in to look and shop.
Viewers were actually queuing up at Durham Press to purchase the new brightly colored Beatriz Milhazes silkscreens, sumptuously printed by Jean-Paul Russell, the genius printer of many of the Warhol editions. The price on Sugar, which measures 37.5 x 47 inches, went from $10,000 to $12,000 during the preview due to the great number of sales.
The London dealer Paul Stolper also prompted a flurry of activity at his booth with the U.S. debut of 30 new Damien Hirst foil block editions of candy-colored skulls called The Dead and priced at $4,400 each. Individual prints are hilariously titled, Chocolate / Oriental / Gold / Skull, for example.
The University of South Florida continues its explorations of experimental cyanotype prints (a blueprint process). One of the outstanding offerings is a group of Christian Marclay monotypes for which the artist stacked obsolete cassette tapes together (Cassette Grid No. 1, offered at $30,000). These works are a wonderful continuation of Marclay’s 1990 monotypes, which involved pressing inked vinyl records onto the covers of actual Beatles album sleeves. USF is also offering Sharon, a sexy new Alex Katz woodcut and silkscreen portrait of a notably attractive young woman, priced at $5,000.
Both Gemini G.E.L at Joni Moisant Weyl and Diane Villani Editions are offering elegant, spare prints by Minimalist artists. Gemini’s nine new Joel Shapiro silkscreen prints with collage were very well priced, ranging from $3,500 to $5,500 each. Master intaglio printer Jennifer Melby debuted beautiful and delicate black-and-white Robert Moskowitz etchings for under $2,500.
Mixografia is continuing its remarkable production of 3D cast paper objects, presenting a new edition by Palladino of male figure bristling with black birds ($18,000), reminiscent of the artist’s recent bronze sculptures.
Modern and Old Master dealers were also enjoying a good day. Occupying pride of place in the center of David Tunick’s booth was Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac, an oversized woodcut by 16th-century master Andrea Andreani after Beccafumi, on reserve at $180,000. Tunick is also offering a fine impression of Rembrandt’s Three Crosses (1653), with spectacular tone, priced to move at $2.2 million.
London Galleries Samuel Osborne, Ltd, and Redfern are both featuring marvelous works from the 1930s British linocut movement, with crowd-pleasing prints by Sybil Andrews, Cyril Powers and C.R.W. Nevinson.
John Szoke has a wonderful group of Picasso prints and drawings, including the rare 1897 drawing Portrait de Femme offered at around $1 million. Szoke is getting ready to move from his downtown gallery, where he has been for over 25 years, to 24 West 57th Street. "I can finally walk to work," he said.
Editions/Artists Book Fair
Down in Chelsea, at the Editions/Artists Book Fair, the music was throbbing for a well-turned-out crowd of hip downtown types. The artist Terry Winters, who opened the fall season with a show of his prints at Senior & Shopmaker on Madison Square Park, was spotted in the fair aisles, as was Kiki Smith, who was admiring a new stone lithograph of a bird by artist Robyn O’Neil, published by fair organizer and publisher Susan Inglett.
Also in Susan Inglett’s corner was the artist cooperative VendorBar, organized by artists Kirby Gookin and Robin Kahn, who invited artists to engage fairgoers with on-the-spot production of multiples as well as performances. The bargain-priced items included drawings by Fluxus artist Alison Knowles made with beans, priced at $200, and Yoko Ono’s Peace Now stencil, complete with crayons, for $20. The artist Tom Otterness, who made a poster for the event, is slated to show up for a "poster signing" on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 2 pm.
Another hot item at the fair is a new edition by Marilyn Minter, benefiting Lincoln Center. Minter’s c-print, a closeup of red lips sucking on a diamond necklace, could well depict an opera diva, hazarded Lincoln Center director Tom Loller. The print was performing well at the opening and half the edition of 26 was gone in two hours, and its price went up to $4,000.
Donald Taglialatella of World House Editions is offering the first multiple by Robert Cottingham, a lightbox in an edition of 15 entitled Ode. Offered at $4,000, the work was selling well at the vernissage and the Everson Museum bought one for its collection.
Brand X and Chris Neptune have wonderful new editions by Mickalene Thomas. MoMA print curator Deborah Wye was eying Keri On, Thomas’ new multiple that depicts her favorite model. The price is $3,500. MoMA plans an exhibition of Thomas’ work next year.
Finally, Fawbush Editions has a marvelous new neon edition by Assume Vivid Astro Focus, which was on offer for the reasonable price of $8,000.
The shows offer many other marvelous things to see, and art lovers would be well advised to devote their weekend to Print Week. It is not to be missed!
DEBORAH RIPLEY is a print specialist at Artnet.