Auction prices for both modern and post-war work is hitting all time highs once again. In what feels like a weekly trend, the single night art auction record of $491 million was established at Christies. Record prices were set for Klimt, who had four canvases that traded hands during the evening, with “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II” selling for $87.9 million to a private collector. Also of note was Paul Gauguin’s “Man with an Ax”, a richly colored painting from his Tahitian period, which sold for $40.3 million.
Only a week later a Christie’s sale set the single night record for post-war art at $239.7 million. Interestingly enough, this night of extreme money and art exchange would have been close to the previous high of any sale that was set in 1990 at $269 million. The extreme prices seem to indicate not only an inflated market but also the amount of collectors who want post-war work. Record prices were set for several artists including de Kooning, whose “Untitled XXV” sold for an astonishing $27.1 million, setting a post-war record. De Kooning also sold a work on paper for $9.6 million, which tripled its estimate and is by far the most expensive work on paper that de Kooning has fetched. In a night of records Clifford Still also shattered his own auction records when his 1947 “R-No. 1” brought in $21.2 million.
Needless to say the art market is booming in ways that make the 1980s seem calm. Is a fall-out in the market approaching? Trends seem to suggest it will get grow even larger before it collapses, making many collectors consider which of their prizes are worth letting go. Acceleration to the auction houses is still a popular trend, with younger to mid-career artists able to approach $10 million at times. How long will it be before a living artist breaks de Kooning’s record?