Christie’s Nets $413 Million in 20th Century Evening Sale

Van Gogh, Hockney, and O’Keeffe hit the block at Christie's as New York’s week of evening auctions comes to a close.

May 17, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
Christie’s New York. Source: Wikipedia.


Last night, Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale closed out a week of marquee art auctions in New York City. Despite a “technology security incident” plaguing Christie’s official website, the two-hour, 64-lot sale netted $413 million for the auction house, achieving the pre-sale estimate of $342–497 million.


Monumental O’Keeffe Poppy Fetches $16.5 Million

Red Poppy by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1928. Source: Christie’s.


With an estimate of $10–15 million, Red Poppy by Georgia O’Keeffe sparked the first bidding war of the evening. According to Christie’s, the painting “epitomizes the striking originality that has established O’Keeffe as one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century.” The action house also noted that this work was the largest of O’Keeffe’s poppy paintings that is still in private hands. Christie’s low estimate for Red Poppy was reached within fifteen seconds of bidding, and the painting ultimately sold for $16.5 million with fees.


“O’Keeffe’s limited series of only seven red poppies are inarguably among her most bold and striking flower paintings,” said Christie’s. “Daring color fields of orange and red petals converge into the deep, dark center of the flower, the black focal point underscoring the powerful, almost untamed vibrancy of the blossom.”


Norman Lear’s Hockney Painting Sells for $28.6 Million

A Lawn Being Sprinkled by David Hockney, 1967. Source: Christie’s.


Hailing from the private collection of television producer Norman Lear, who died in December at age 101, A Lawn Being Sprinkled by David Hockney fetched $28.6 million with fees against a $25–35 million estimate. Having never before appeared at auction, the painting was prominently pictured on the cover of Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale catalog. Despite its celebrity provenance and pre-sale hype, only a few interested parties actually bid on A Lawn Being Sprinkled.

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Norman Lear purchased the Hockney painting in 1978 for $64,000—then a record-breaking price for the British contemporary artist, whose work now frequently goes for tens of millions. By 2018, Hockney had set a record for the highest price ever paid at auction for the work of a living artist when Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) sold for $90.3 million.


Van Gogh Garden Scene Sets Record at Christie’s

Corner of a Garden with Butterflies (Coin de jardin avec papillons) by Vincent van Gogh, 1887. Source: Christie’s.


Bidding at Christie’s was also slower than expected on Vincent van Gogh‘s Coin de jardin avec papillons. The painting last appeared at a Christie’s auction in 2018, when it went unsold after failing to meet its reserve price of $30 million. Last night, it went under the hammer again and sold for $33.2 million with fees, just surpassing its low estimate. Despite limited enthusiasm amongst bidders, the sale set a new record for a piece painted during Van Gogh’s Paris period. The Dutch-born artist traveled to Paris in 1886 and stayed there for two years before moving to Provence, France. This period was especially pivotal in the evolution of Van Gogh’s distinct Post-Impressionist style, which is characterized by expressive colors and and textured brushstrokes.

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.