This Week’s Contemporary Sales Broke Records, But How Did Female Artists Fare?

31- Sturtevant (1926-2014) Lichtenstein, Frighten Girl, Painted in 1966. Estimate $600,000 – $800,000, Prize Realized: $3,413,000. (Courtesy Christie's)

Sturtevant (1926-2014) Lichtenstein, Frighten Girl, Painted in 1966. Estimate $600,000 – $800,000, Price Realized: $3,413,000. (Courtesy Christie’s)

This week saw record-breaking totals at the Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips Contemporary Art Evening Sales. But, between all three sales, at only one of the sales did an artwork by a female artist rank in the top ten highest prices for the night.

Tuesday’s sale at Sotheby’s achieved new highs for Robert Ryman, Jasper Johns, and Glenn Ligon, and totaled $343.6 million. On Wednesday night, Christie’s shattered the record for highest total in auction history and topped out at $852.9 million, with staggering prices paid for works by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, and Martin Kippenberger, among others. And at Phillips on Thursday, an all-white painting by Robert Ryman led the sale, followed by a rainbow-colored Frank Stella achieving well over its estimated price at $3.9 million and a piece by Tauba Auerbach setting a new artist record.

The work by Ms. Auerbach was the only work by a female artist to make it into the top ten highest-selling artworks at any of the houses. Not only that, but representation of works by female artists made up only a fraction of all the artworks that saw the auction block.

Below are some sale totals from each house, and information on how works by female artists influenced each sale.

Sotheby’s 

— 78 artworks total, with four artworks by female artists included in the sale
— Female artists in this sale: Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman
— Sale total: $343.6 million
— Total amount achieved by female artists: $12.28 million

Christie’s 

— 82 artworks total, with six artworks by female artists included in the sale
— Female artists in this sale: Yayoi Kusama, Cindy Sherman, Elaine Sturtevant, Louise Bourgeois, Julie Mehretu, Joan Mitchell
— Sale Total: $852.9 million
— Total amount achieved by female artists: $23.85 million
— New auction records for female artists: Cindy Sherman, Yayoi Kusama, Elaine Sturtevant

Philips 

— 48 artworks, with seven artworks by female artists included in the sale
— Female artists in this sale: R.H. Quaytman, Julie Mehretu, Tauba Auerbach, Yayoi Kusama, Elaine Sturtevant, Cindy Sherman
— Sale Total: $51.96 million
— Total amount achieved by female artists: $5.7 million
— New auction records for female artists: Tauba Auerbach

This Week’s Contemporary Sales Broke Records, But How Did Female Artists Fare?