Auctions Market USA

Sotheby’s $20m test of the Warhol market

The auction house will include two “A-plus” works in its November sales, the day after Christie’s offers 350 works from the artist’s foundation

Warhol's Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice), 1963 (est around $12m)

Sotheby’s is selling Andy Warhol’s silkscreens Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice), 1963 (est around $12m), and Suicide, 1964 (est $6m-$8m), both from his “Death and Disaster Series”, at its contemporary art evening sale in New York on 13 November. The auction comes at a time when there are concerns that the Warhol market could become flooded, as Christie’s begins selling thousands of works, estimated at around $100m, from the Andy Warhol Foundation. Over 350 of these works are scheduled to be sold in a three-session auction (est $20m-$30m) at Christie’s in New York, the day before Sotheby’s evening sale.

The signs are that the influx of works is already having an effect. At Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale in London last week, Warhol’s silkscreens Campbell’s Soup, 1986 (est £600,000-£800,000) and Man Ray, 1974 (est £400,000-£600,000), went unsold and four other pieces sold below estimate on only one bid each.

Alex Rotter, the head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s in New York, concurs that for mid-level Warhol works—which he says includes those sold last week and those coming up at Christie’s—there are concerns that the prospect of November’s lots is proving too much for the market to swallow. But Rotter says the two upcoming lots at Sotheby’s are “A-plus works”, made at the pivotal moment in the artist’s career when he began his trademark silkscreen technique.

Although it is a smaller work, Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice) comes from the same series as the work that currently holds the record for a Warhol at auction; Christie’s sold Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), 1963, for $71.7m in 2007. Both works reveal a gruesome subject matter through Warhol’s distractedly warm, phthalo green.

The works’ estimates also indicate the rise in price for Warhol’s art over the past 20 years: Suicide was last sold by Sotheby’s in 1992 for $132,000.

Warhol's Suicide, 1964 (est $6m-$8m)
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