The fall art auctions in New York City are always worth a watch, and this year they’ve blown away old records. A surge in global wealth among the already-wealthy and an urge to lock money into inflation-resistant investments like fine art have been the major forces behind an absolutely blockbuster series of art auctions.
In the past two weeks, sales at the three major auction houses (Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Philips) have totaled just over $2.65 billion. The previous record, $2.59 billion in two weeks, was set in the fall of 2014. The $60 million gap between them is the operating budget of a moderately-sized city.
32 works sold for over $20 million a piece, according to art data and analytics firm Pi-eX. 54 works sold for over $10 million each.
Among the fall art auctions were two original paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and an original copy of the U.S. Constitution, all of which went for far above the auction houses’ original estimates. Harry Macklowe’s impressive art collection was for sale, forced there by the developer’s contentious divorce. It was an outright treasure trove for collectors and auctioneers alike. Containing Mark Rothko’s “No. 7,” sculptures by Giacometti and Cy Twombly, and original Jackson Pollocks and Andy Warhols, the collection brought in almost a quarter of the fall bounty – $676 million in all.
Crypto featured heavily both in the buyers and in the offerings. Justin Sun, the founder of the cryptocurrency platform TRON, paid nearly $80 million for the aforementioned Giacometti sculpture, a dangling abstract bust called “Le Nez” for its signature feature. An ‘NFT-powered’ sculpture by digital artist Beeble, the original NFT artist, went for $29 million.
Art is currency, at this level, purchased as an investment rather than for its own sake. A good example is “Love is In the Bin,” a Banksy original which was bought at $1.2 million, destroyed itself in the auction hall, and the remains sold again for $12 million the next year.
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