May’s Marquee Art Auctions Kick Off in New York

Record highs and a surprising low characterized Monday’s contemporary art sales at Sotheby’s, which generated $267.3 million.

May 14, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
The Now auction at Sotheby’s New York on May 13, 2024. Source: Sotheby’s.


May’s annual marquee art auctions commenced with two sales at Sotheby’s New York on Monday evening. Focusing on established contemporary artists and emerging artists, the May 13 auctions fetched a collective $267.3 million.


Francis Bacon Painting Fails to Meet Low Estimate

Installation view of Portrait of George Dyer Crouching by Francis Bacon, 1966. Source: Sotheby’s.


Despite being the most expensive lot in Monday evening’s New York auctions, Portrait of George Dyer Crouching by Francis Bacon (1966) failed to meet its low estimate. After about 90 seconds of bidding, the painting sold for $27.7 million against an estimate of $30 million–$50 million. Portrait of George Dyer Crouching is the first of ten single-panel portraits of Bacon’s lover and muse. Before yesterday, it had never been offered on the public market. The consigner purchased the unsettling portrait in 1970, after which it remained in the same private collection for over fifty years.


The painting depicts a nude Dyer crouching, almost animal-like, over his discarded clothing. The torqued figure’s head appears three times as it turns towards the viewer. One of the faces is an uncanny combination of Dyer’s and Bacon’s features. Over the course of his tumultuous relationship with the artist, George Dyer inspired much of Bacon’s work, including the Dyer single-panel portrait series, which is considered especially valuable. In 2014, another work from this series sold at auction for $70 million at Christie’s London against a high estimate of $50 million.


Faith Ringgold Sets a New Artist Record

Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s: The French Collection Part II, #10 by Faith Ringgold, 1991. Source: Sotheby’s.


Faith Ringgold, who died last month, set a new record with Dinner at Gertrude Stein’s: The French Collection Part II, #10. The quilted painting, which was the Contemporary Evening Auction’s first lot, sold for $1.57 million against a $1 million high estimate. Sotheby’s cited the work as one of the “most important” in Ringgold’s oeuvre. It is one of twelve quilt paintings in The French Collection series, which tells the story of Willa Marie Simone’s sojourn to Paris to become an artist. Ringgold’s previous auction record of $461,000 was set in 2015.

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Another record was set when an untitled 1984 painting by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $19.4 million, a new high for the duo. Additionally, the first lot in The Now Evening Auction, a 2019 painting by Justin Caguiat, triggered a surprise six-minute bidding war. The saint is never busy sold for $1.09 million, more than tripling its high estimate of $300,000. The young abstract artist’s work had only appeared at auction twice before last night.


The New York Auctions Continue Tonight

Sotheby’s headquarters in New York City. Source: Wikipedia Commons.


Several more big-ticket art auctions are on the horizon this week in New York. The star lot of tonight’s Modern and Contemporary Art Evening Art Sale at Phillips is Untitled (ELMAR) by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Alongside two other early Basquiats, the 1982 painting is estimated to sell for $40–60 million. Christie’s is also holding two Tuesday auctions: The 21st Century Evening Art sale and The Rosa de la Cruz Evening Art sale. Untitled (America #3) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1992) and Event by Brice Marden (2004–07) are among the most talked-about lots in tonight’s sales, which will proceed despite a disruptive cyberattack on the auction house’s official website.


On Wednesday, Sotheby’s is set to host its highly-anticipated Modern Evening Auction. A rare haystack painting by Claude Monet, valued at “an excess of $30 million,” is expected to steal the show. “We’ve seen a resurgence of interest in Impressionism after a period of it feeling rather flat,” art advisor Megan Fox Kelly told Artnet. “New buyers are turning their attention to that market. It has to be the right picture, of course, but when something great and fresh to market comes up, we’re seeing pretty competitive bidding and new price levels.”

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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.