The past few weeks have been record-breaking for Christie’s Auction House. First, the NFT-backed jpeg by artist Beeple sold for a record-breaking $69 million earlier this month. Then, on March 23rd, the auction house live-streamed their 20th Century Evening, breaking two new records for the sales of Basquiat’s Warrior and Banksy’s Game Changer. The four-hour sale brought in over $275 million and was hosted in Hong Kong, London, and New York.
As Covid-19 continues to impact art sales, it seems that some markets are rebounding from the soft sales of 2020. Auction houses are becoming more adept at offering their selections online, and there are undoubtedly fewer opportunities to spend, which may be pushing sale prices ever higher.
The 20th Century Evening was opened by Basquiat’s Warrior being auctioned in Hong Kong for a record-breaking $41.7 million, the highest sale of any Western art piece in Asia. It was reported that more than 400,000 people watched the auction live from 36 countries.
Warrior is a depiction of a male warrior, holding a sword and ready to strike. Painted in 1982, it is widely regarded as one of Basquiat’s best pieces, and autobiographical in nature. The piece was offered as a single lot and a kick-off to the global scale.
Christie’s took the record from Sotheby’s Hong Kong, which previously held the record with Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild.
Banksy has made headlines twice in the past month, both for current and past artwork. A mural spotted on the Reading Jail earlier this month was attributed to the graffiti artist, and was later claimed in a video showing its creation and spoofing Bob Ross. The piece, entitled Create Escape, is possibly his way of supporting the movement that is pushing to turn the decommissioned jail into an arts hub.
Banksy’s name again made the news as his painting Game Changer was auctioned directly after Basquiat’s Warrior. The painting more than doubled his previous record, going for $23.1 million. The oil painting, which was found at the Southampton General Hospital last May, was donated by Banksy with a note reading that it was intended to “brighten up the place a bit, even if it’s only black and white.”
Christie’s described the painting as a “personal tribute to those who continue to turn the tide of the pandemic” by the artist. It features a young boy playing with a doll dressed as a Red Cross nurse in a cape, with traditional Batman and Spiderman superheroes discarded in a bin in the background.
The piece has hung in the hospital since May and was put up for auction so that all proceeds could go to NHS charities. A reproduction has now been hung in its place.