The Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction


Sotheby’s is one of the world’s largest brokers of both fine and decorative art and has been providing collectors with world-class art since the mid 1700’s, which makes them the fourth oldest auction house in the world.

Founded by an entrepreneur named Samuel Baker in 1744, Sotheby’s specializes in all types of art, including antiques, manuscripts, furniture, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, photographs, and wine, which has allowed them to act as a buyer and seller of almost every art type that you could imagine. They host numerous art events throughout the year to highlight and display works by both contemporary and historical artists.

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Although originally based out of London, Sotheby’s started to expand to many additional locations around the world, starting with the opening of a New York salesroom in 1955. In the years following, they have expanded to 90 different locations across 40 countries in the world.

Sotheby’s auctions are specifically held in 10 state-of-the-art salesrooms in destinations like New York, Paris, London, and Hong Kong. Today, they are known for hosting groundbreaking events that take the art and collector world by storm, including the sale of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” in 2012 and the sale of David Bowie’s private music collection in 2016.

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Sotheby’s just recently hosted The Contemporary Art Evening Auction, which took place in New York on November 16, providing attendees with access to a wide range of contemporary art items. Minimalist creations that were put up for sale at this auction include revered works by artists such as Agnes Martin and Robert Ryman as well as contemporary pop pieces from artists like Jeff Koons and Robert Indiana.

One contemporary piece known as “Ste. Helaire” by Joan Mitchell was painted in 1957 in a style similar to many European Impressionists and has a current estimate of being sold for $6-8 million. One of the more popular artworks that was set to be auctioned off at this event is “The Great American LOVE” by Robert Indiana, featuring a love motif that was popularized in the 1960’s and remains relevant even to this day.

Minimalist Masterworks to Arresting Pop Statements

The Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction is an event that features the auctioning of a large variety of different contemporary art styles, ranging from minimalist masterworks to arresting pop statements. The minimalist artwork on display is noted by its abstract imagery and simple canvases that are kept as bare-bones as possible in order to accurately display the look and style that the artist is attempting to achieve. This art style began in the mid 1900’s and was derived from many different sources, including the change of abstract artists to a form of art known as geometric abstraction, where various geometric forms were placed into non-objective compositions for a unique look.

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There is a tendency in minimal art to exclude illusionistic, fictive, and pictorial imagery in order to focus instead on the literal. Since the advent of this art form, minimalism is regularly employed in the designing of websites to the creation of modern buildings to make for a sleeker and simpler look.

An example of a minimalist work that is for sale at this auction is “Untitled #5” by Agnes Martin, a beautiful painting that was originally created in 1981 and is comprised of faint and slender bands of powder blue, glistening ivory, and hazy pink bands without formulating an actual pattern, which allows the viewer of the painting to become more immersed in each brush stroke on the canvas.

Several of the paintings and works of art that are up for sale at this auction can be described as contemporary pop, which is an art-style that emerged in the 1960’s, bringing celebrity culture and bold, striking colors into the world of high art. Everything from cartoons and popular advertisements are transferred into works of art that are oftentimes irreverent and witty. “Madonna I” by Andreas Gursky is a noteworthy pop piece of art that is being put up for auction at this event and is considered to be the most important work by this German artist, as it displays the famous pop singer Madonna at a concert she held on September 13, 2001, two days after it was originally postponed due to the events of 9/11.

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Portraiture is another art form that is on display at this auction and is among the oldest in existence, yet is combined with a contemporary flair. These works of art depict a human subject or even multiple people in one image. Although portraiture found its roots in prehistoric times, modern day portraiture began with the revival of this art form in the 1960’s and 70’s, eventually becoming popular enough to the point where a portrait known as “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” by Lucian Freud was sold at auction for an astonishing sum of $33.6 million, which then set a world record for the amount paid for a painting completed by a living artist. Created in the late 1950’s, “Untitled (Seated Woman)” by Richard Diebenkorn is a vibrant portrait that consists of equally vibrant colors yet features an image of a subdued and meditative individual.

Contemporary Artists of Achievement

There are a great many contemporary artists of artistic achievement that are having their works auctioned off at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction, as there are a total of 74 works that were set to be sold during this event. Although all contemporary art styles are represented at this auction, there are a substantial number of minimalist and pop pieces that are among the lots to be put up for sale.

Among the many distinct paintings, sculptures, and art exhibits to be auctioned off, the “New Hoover Celebrity IV, New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton 5 Gallon Wet/Dry, New Shelton 10 Gallon Wet/Dry Doubledecker” is an exhibit by Jeff Koons that was originally created between 1981-1986 and highlights the timeless beauty of domestic technology as it was in the 1980’s. This pop art piece is among the most famous created by American artist Jeff Koons and is estimated to be auctioned off at a price of $7-10 million.

Two abstract pieces by artist Agnes Martin are set to be auctioned off as well, including “Untitled #5” that was created in 1981 and “Untitled #12” that was painted in 1996, both of which are known for their thin lines and brush strokes as well as the minimal amount of color used across the canvas. The former is estimated to be sold at a price of $6-8 million, while the latter has an estimate of $3-4 million.

One unique work of art that is set to be sold at this auction is “Purple Panel with Blue Curve”, which was created by Ellsworth Kelly and is notable for featuring exactly what the title says, a purple panel with a blue curve on a white background. However, the vibrant colors of the two objects as well as their distinct scale in relation to the background has caused this to be among the most popular paintings at this event and is estimated to be sold at $3-5 million.

Andy Warhol Mao

One of Andy Warhol’s paintings featured at the auction, “Mao” created in 1973 selling for $30-40 million. Image via Sotheby’s:

Famed artist Andy Warhol was known as one of the leading figures in the contemporary pop art movement, having created a large number of paintings and other works of art that combined celebrities, characters, and advertisements with bright colors and bold imagery for one-of-a-kind results. During his life, this world-famous artist focused on exploring the relationship between advertising, celebrity culture, and art expression that played such a large part in America during the 1960’s and beyond.

Some of his more famous works include silkscreen paintings like “Campbell’s Soup Can” and “Marilyn Diptych”, the latter of which was completed during the weeks following the death of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol has four paintings at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction, including the aforementioned “Campbell’s Soup Can”, “Dollar Sign”, “The Last Supper”, and “Mao”. Out of these paintings, “Mao” is definitely the one to watch, as it is a famous portrait of Chinese leader Mao Zedong that was created in 1972-1973 and appears as though it’s going to be sold for an astonishing $30-40 million. This is one of the nearly 200 “Mao” paintings made by Andy Warhol, a series that he worked on during the 1970’s.

Looking to the Future

As of today, Sotheby’s has over 90 salesrooms and other destinations that are spread out across 40 countries, providing art lovers everywhere with the opportunity to glimpse and maybe even bid on some spectacular works of art. Sotheby’s is an international brand with a global reach and a brand that exudes luxury in art and fine real estate. Every year, they host a great number of art auctions and art events across their many locations. One of the upcoming auctions that is set to be held on November 21 focuses on Latin America: Modern Art, the highlight of which is likely to be “Retrato de un Espanol” by Diego Rivera, which is a portrait that was created in 1912 in the style of European modernism.

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On December 6, Sotheby’s is set to host the Old Masters Evening Sale in London, which will highlight works of art by artists that they deem to be visionary masters. Up for auction at this event will be many works of art that range from the 14th-19th centuries, such as “An Academy by Lamplight”, which is one of the best known works by Joseph Wright of Derby and is the first time that it’s up for sale in more than 200 years. Just over 50 paintings are going to be auctioned at this event, many of which have a particular focus on portraits, landscapes and serene still life imagery.

The Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art event is another intriguing auction that will take place in London on December 14, involving a collection of around 80 watercolors, oil paintings, and drawings from the premier Victorian, British impressionist and pre-Raphaelite artists. “Penelope” is a striking painting by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope that depicts the wife of King Odysseus from Homer’s “The Odyssey”.

If you have an interest in attending one of these art events or auctions, you should know that all of the works that are set to be put up for auction are exhibited in the same destination as the main event for around seven days prior to the auction, providing you with a chance to glimpse some of these masterful works of artistic achievement!

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