Christie’s Post-War to Present Sale Led by Cy Twombly Netted $21.5m

A number of works in the sale were part of charitable initiatives benefiting the American Friends of the Moderna Museet and the Insititute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Roman Note) (1970)
‘Untitled (Roman Note)’ by Cy Twombly. CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2024

Last week, the March contemporary art auctions at Christie's in New York brought few surprises but some notable sales. In the “Contemporary Edition: New York” auction, Sol LeWitt’s Irregular Zig Zag Bands sold for $20,160, over one hundred times its low estimate. A Fernando Botero bronze, Dancers, achieved more than 260 percent of its low estimate to sell at $3,922,000 in the “Latin America Art” live auction. And the “Post-War to Present” live sale brought in more than half of the $39,131,579 realized across the auction house’s four contemporary sales.

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Leading that sale, which included works by artists like Alice Neel, Yoshitomo Nara, Alexander Calder, Wayne Thiebaud and Danielle Mckinney, was Cy Twombly’s calligraphic Untitled (Roman Note) (1970), which came from the collection of San Francisco Museum Modern Art trustee Shirley Ross Davis and sold for $1.6 million. Elaine De Kooning’s Untitled (Black Mountain #13) realized more than eight times its low estimate to bring in $207,900. Lois Dodd’s Green Door and Bed (1994) sold for $239,400 after a low estimate of $60,000 and set a new record for the artist. And Pink of Spring by Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, achieved $1,405,200, well above its estimate.

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The 70s are where you see her really come to her mature style; she was inspired by looking at light through trees,” Julian Ehrlich, AVP, Specialist and Head of Sale, Post-War to Present, told Observer. “She had a show at the Martha Jackson Gallery in 1973 with forty or so paintings, and this one was in the show. It has been in the same collection since then.” He added that it’s special when something comes out of a collection after fifty years and goes to a new home.

Alma Thomas Pink of Spring (1973)
‘Pink of Spring’ by Alma Thomas. CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2024

But while Ehrlich remarked in a post-sale statement that the auction “saw great success for fresh-to-market artworks and collections across new and established names,” the “Post-War to Present” sale ultimately fell short of its presale low estimate, and fifty-seven works (including Alice Neel’s Linus and Ava Helen Pauling) failed to sell.

Gallery displaying several works being sold to benefit the American Friends of the Moderna Museet including Ishigaan Adams, Kicking Dust (2020).
Lots sold benefiting the American Friends of the Moderna Museet. Tiffany Del Valle

That likely didn’t matter to some artists and philanthropists involved in the auction, as a number of works in the sale were part of charitable initiatives benefiting the American Friends of the Moderna Museet and the Insititute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

Artists whose work sold to support the former organization included Cristina BanBan, Arthur Jafa, Eric Fischl, Alex Da Corte and Brian Donnelly, known professionally as KAWS, who donated The Visit (2023), a colored pencil drawing of one of his signature characters. The charitable group sale was led by Igshaan Adams’s Study for Kicking Dust, which sold for $100,800 and set a new record for the artist. Proceeds will be used to extend the collection of American contemporary and modern art in the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden.

Christie’s Post-War to Present Sale Led by Cy Twombly Netted $21.5m