Double Visionary

The success of Paul Allen's $1.6 billion sale in November is bringing additional works by Hopper, O'Keeffe and Hockney to market.

Christie’s seems to be leading the way in sizing the art market to current conditions. Earlier this Winter, the house announced a $140 million selection of works from Si Newhouse’s collection. That sale is calibrated against the demand on display in the Paul Allen sale in November. As most sophisticated observers of the Allen sale remarked at the time, the estate still retains a number of significant art works. 

This morning Christie’s announced that it would sell an additional seven works from the Allen collection: three by Georgia O’Keeffe, three by David Hockney and one by Edward Hopper. The group of works is estimated at $30 million but likely to exceed those numbers significantly. 

November’s sale of four O’Keeffe’s from the Allen collection accounted for $56.7 million in sales, the overwhelming majority of the O’Keeffe auction market for 2022. Undoubtedly, Christie’s has enough underbidders to confidently bring another batch of O’Keeffes to market with the kinds of attractive estimates that helped the Allen sale become such an overwhelming success.

The lot with the highest estimate is O’Keeffe’s White Calico Rose (above) painted in 1930. Christie’s has estimated the work at $6 million even though the work is of a similar composition, date and size as the current O’Keeffe record holder, Jimson Weed/White Flower, No. 1 from 1932 that sold in 2014 for $44 million.

dxYVbnWYTwo other O’Keeffe works that Allen bought at auction are back also with conservative estimates. On the Old Santa Fe Road (above) from 1930 comes back to market with a $4 million estimate despite having been purchased at Sotheby’s in 2014 for $5 million.

Black Iris VI (above) from 1936 returns to the market with a $5 million estimate. Allen bought the work at Christie’s in 1998 for $1.1 million.
From Hockney, the estate is offering three works from the 21st Century. The Gate (above) from 2000 has a $6 million estimate. Allen bought it as recently as 2016 at Phillips for $6.9 million. A similar work in size and date sold two years ago for $8.19 million.
Early Blossom, Woldgate (above) from 2009 has a $5 million estimate. A work of similar size and slightly later date but slightly different style sold in 2015 for $5.3 million. That work is more reminiscent in style with Felled Trees (below) from 2008 which is estimated at $4 million.
Edward Hopper’s watercolor Coast Guard Cove from 1929 is being offered with a $600,000 estimate. Allen paid $1 million for the work in 2014 when it was sold in the Bunny Mellon collection. It comes back to market with two very strong provenances.
The highest price paid for a Hopper watercolor is the $4.1 million that Kelly Jenness House from 1932 made in 2013. In November, another one of Allen’s Hopper watercolors, Gloucester Roofs from 1928, was sold for $1.98 million.
Georgia OKeeffe Annual Sales v Avg Price, 1986-2022For a handful of historically significant and sought-after artists, the market is driven by supply. Georgia O’Keeffe’s market is a classic example. Here is chart of the auction sales for O’Keeffe from the LiveArt database going back to 1986.
You can see that there are supply-driven spikes in 2014, 2018 and last year primarily from the first Allen collection sale. The red line charts the average price of an O’Keeffe auctioned in that year. You can see that last year, the average price of an O’Keeffe at auction was around $6 million which is where these latest O’Keeffe works are estimated.
The chart also shows that in early periods—2001, 2007, 2010 and 2012—average prices spiked more than sales volume. Those are usually indicators of periods when buyers are revaluing an artist’s work upwards. Starting in 2014, the O’Keeffe auction market shifts to both higher volumes and higher average prices. This is an indication that supply helps generate demand at a new level.
In 2014, the average price of an O’Keeffe at auction was similar to the average price in 2022. It lagged in 2018 when a handful of drawings and multiples were auctioned helping to lower the average price.
The chart also indicates that the O’Keeffe market tends to pause after a season or two of strong sales. Christie’s following so closely on the success of the O’Keeffes in the November sale suggests they have sufficient interest from underbidders and other potential buyers.
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