NEW YORK – Christie’s May 21 American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture sale totaled $72.6 million, set new records and established new benchmarks across the category. The highest total for an American Art sale at Christie’s, the auction also saw new records set for 19th century American art, American Modernism – and included the highest combined total for American Western art. During the proceedings 111 lots were sold for an average sold lot value of $654,043.
The auction was led by Thomas Moran’s monumental American West landscape Green River of Wyoming, which realized a remarkable $17.74 million, more than doubling the previous record for a 19th century American painting. One of the earliest of his acclaimed oils depicting the Green River, it sold in the room to American art dealers Avery Galleries, from Bryn Mawr, Penn. The pre-sale estimate for the painting was $3.5-$5 million; the previous record for a 19th century American painting was John Singer Sargent’s Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife that fetched $8.8 million in 2004.
American Western art had an unprecedented day, with $41.47 million sold during the auction – the largest auction of American Western art ever sold. The exceptional works from the renowned Stegall Collection – the most important collection of Taos paintings to appear at auction in a decade – totaled $11.22 million; and when combined with other Western works in the sale, eight new records were set, including those for Albert Bierstadt, Walter Ufer and Joseph Henry Sharp.
A new auction record was set in the American Modernism category, when Marsden Hartley’s recently-rediscovered Lighthouse – an American Modernist masterwork and the finest painting of its kind to be offered in a generation – sold for $6.31 million. It was bought by an anonymous phone bidder, and broke the previous record for American Modernism that had stood at $6.17 million, when Georgia O’Keeffe’s Calla Lilies with Red Anemone sold in 2001.