Records & Results: Contemporary Art

In our most encyclopedic offering of Contemporary Art to date, the November 16 auction saw active bidding, with works by Josef Albers, Jean Arp and Christo exceeding their estimates and setting new auction records.

After several minutes of intense bidding, surrealist Jean Arp’s Formes préadamites, 1945, sold for $50,000, far surpassing its estimate of $12,000. Though the title of the abstract cherry wood relief mounted on linen-wrapped board refers to the belief that human beings existed before the biblical Adam, part of Arp’s potent brand of surrealism relied on supplying his works with nonsensical titles. Works by Arp in the sale performed well, with five of the six additional lots, all prints, finding buyers.


Lot 77: Jean Arp, Formes préadamites, cherry wood mounted on board, 1945.
Sold November 16, 2017 for $50,000.


The highlight of the sale was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled: Four Prints, 1983-2001, a set rarely seen complete at auction. The work, showcasing the visionary artist’s graffiti-inspired style, reached $200,000.


Lot 327: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled: Four Prints, complete set of four color screenprints, 1983-2001. Sold November 16, 2017 for $200,000.


The original maquette in acrylic on canvas of Gene Davis’s Signal, 1973, for the same-titled color screenprint currently in the collections of museums internationally, sold over the phone for $32,500.


Lot 131: Gene Davis, Signal, acrylic on canvas, 1973.
Sold November 16, 2017 for $32,500.


Eis 2, 2003, a monumental color screenprint by Gerhard Richter in 41 colors, sold for $50,000. Another recent German Expressionist highlight was Anima Mundi 18-3, 2010, Imi Knoebel’s set of three collaged acrylic on plastic film mounted to aluminum, which reached $18,750.


Lot 352: Gerhard Richter, Eis 2, color screenprint in 41 colors, 2003.
Sold November 16, 2017 for $50,000.


Works by Josef Albers continue to attract buyers, with ninety percent of the lots by the artist offered sold. Of those, three of the works more than doubled their previous auction records. Wide Light, a 1962 color screenprint in the boldly vibrant geometric style for which the artist is known, reached $3,500, smashing the previous record of $1,500. In the same style, Porta Negra, 1965, nearly tripled its established $2,000 record at $5,750. The record for an unusual black and white graphic lithograph titled Interim, 1942, was $3,750; it is now $6,500. From the same series, Graphic Tectonics, came the dizzying lithograph Prefatio, which sold for $9,750.


Lot 109: Josef Albers, Prefatio, lithograph, 1942. Sold November 16, 2017 for $9,375.


Records were also achieved for works by Christo, who was represented in the sale by selections from his series of “wrapped” objects. Wrapped Book Modern Art, 1978, sold for $22,500, a record for the work, above a high estimate of $8,000. An editioned maquette for one of his unrealized large-scale works, Wrapped Building Project for 1 Times Square, New York, reached a record $13,750. Additional records were set for works by Jean Dubuffet, Robert Motherwell and Frank Stella.


Lot 248: Christo, Wrapped Book Modern Art, book wrapped in polyethylene with twine and cord, 1978.
Sold November 16, 2017 for $22,500 .


The auction debut of El Anatsui’s Pewter Variation, 2015, a work combining print, sculpture and collage, netted $16,250. The highlight in a run of works by Jeff Koons was the auction debut of Balloon Rabbit (Red), 2017 ($16,250). All five works by Ellsworth Kelly sold, led by the monumental color screenprint Blue, Yellow and Red Squares, 1970-71, which brought $18,750.


Lot 417: El Anatsui, Pewter Variation, pigment print with hand collage and copper wire, 2015. Sold November 16, 2017 for $16,250.


Two elaborate and amusing “chocolate samplers” by David Gilhooly—with frogs and other surprises disguised as truffles—crossed the block as bidding quickly exceeded the high estimates for both the 5 lb. Sampler and 10 lb. Sampler (each 1989, $4,250 and $7,020, respectively).


Lot 281: David Gilhooly, Gilhooly 5 lb. Sampler, set of nine glazed ceramics in a fabricated box, 1989.
Sold November 16, 2017 for $4,250.


Browse the catalogue for complete results. The next auction of Contemporary Art at Swann Galleries will be held May 22, 2018. For more information or consign quality materials, contact Todd Weyman at