May is the spring auction season in New York. From May 9 to 19, the four major auction houses-Bonhams, Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s-hosted 20 sales. The results of the contemporary art sales provide data on the market-dominating artists born in the 1960s.
On May 15, Christie’s New York’s 21st Century Evening Sale saw ‘El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile)’ by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) top the block at USD 67,110,000, followed by ‘Untitled (The Beautiful and Damned)’ by Cecily Brown (b. 1969) at USD 6,705,000. Simone Leigh’s (b. 1967) 2022 Venice Biennale award-winning work ‘Stick’ was sold for USD 2,712,000, the fourth-highest lot. In addition, Christie’s auction showed the market’s changing trend toward a younger and more diverse artist base. Eight of the 26 works sold were by younger artists born in the 80s and 90s, with a high proportion of women. Their works sold for more than their estimates, with Robin F. Williams (b. 1984) drawing particular attention.
On May 17, at Phillips New York’s 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Banksy’s ‘Basquiat. Boy and Dog in Stop and Search’ sold for USD 9,724,500, making it the top lot. After Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Grotjahn’s (b. 1968) ‘Untitled (Standard Lotus XVI Face 44.15)’ was sold for USD 4,295,000. A work by Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959) also took high rank.
Sotheby’s New York’s The Now Evening Auction on May 18 was highlighted by ‘Las Meninas II’ by Simon Lee for USD 3,085,000 and ‘Night Studio’ by Nicole Eisenman (b. 1965) for USD 2,430,000.
On May 18, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its final decision in a years-long copyright dispute between the Andy Warhol Foundation and photographer Lynn Goldsmith (b. 1948). The Supreme Court ruled that Warhol’s silkscreen print ‘Orange Prince (1984)’ infringed Goldsmith’s copyright.
Goldsmith photographed the American singer Prince (1958-2016) in 1981. Warhol used the picture to create 14 silkscreen prints and two drawings in 1984. After Prince died in 2016, the Vanity Fair fashion magazine published a special issue featuring Warhol’s work. Realizing her work in Warhol’s prints, Goldsmith filed a lawsuit claiming that Warhol had infringed her copyright. The first verdict sided with the Warhol Foundation, seeing Warhol’s secondary creation as putting new meaning onto the original work. However, the appeal court and the supreme court sided with Goldsmith. The Supreme Court judged Warhol had infringed Goldsmith’s copyright because both Goldsmith’s original photograph and Warhol’s portrait served the same purpose, which was to be published in a magazine and used for commercial effects.
Positive and negative comments from copyright lawyers and artistic figures followed the verdict, as the verdict will have far-reaching implications for secondary creation in art fields.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York opened “Van Gogh’s Cypresses” a few days ago, on May 22. The exhibition, on view through August 27, features some of Vincent van Gogh’s (1853-1890) most famous paintings featuring cypress trees, such as ‘Wheat Field with Cypresses (1889)’ and ‘The Starry Night (1889),’ along with drawings and letters by the artist. 40 works in the show reveal van Gogh’s fascination with the region’s characteristic cypress trees during his stay in the southern parts of France from 1888 to 1890.
Van Gogh first spoke of the “tall, dark” cypress trees in a letter from Arles in 1888. Then, in 1889, a year after leaving Arles to recuperate in the Saint-Rémy asylum, he painted some of his iconic fiery cypresses, writing, “no one has yet done them as I see them.” He continued to paint cypress trees until he left the asylum in 1890.
Van Gogh once wrote, “To find the real character of things here, you have to look at them and paint them for a very long time.” The exhibit shows his long-time process of searching for the depiction of “the real character” of cypress trees.