Sotheby’s New York Marathon Evening Sales Raked in US$597m, Led by Monet’s Iconic Water Lilies Painting that Fetched US$70m

Last night, the New York auction week face-off was met by Sotheby’s marathon sales - a sale dedicated to the art collection amassed by late American philanthropist Anne Marion, as well as the marquee Contemporary Art Evening Auction, and the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale.

A total of 77 modern and contemporary artworks across the three-sale evening racked up a robust US$596.8m to vanquish last year’s equivalent series that totaled US$363m.

The evening also witnessed multiple new records set for the artists and the highest-grossing work came from Monet. His water lilies abstract fetched US$70.4m after fees, which was followed by Basquiat’s Versus Medici that was sold for US$50.8m and a larger-than-life Andy Warhol silver silkscreen Elvis 2 Times, that achieved US$37m.

Sotheby’s marathon sales in New York last night tallied US$596.8m


The New York saleroom this evening, was once again filled with in-room bidders since the lockdown and auctioneer Oliver Barker fielded the bids from specialists across New York, London, and Hong Kong, as well as from online.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

The talk-of-town lot by Monet came from the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, with a total hammer of within-estimate US$188.6m. Of the 33 lots offered, 12 came with an irrevocable bid and two other lots were backed by a guarantee from the house, to ensure they would sell.

The sale that rounded up the night drew frenzied biddings between New York and Hong Kong, including the two top lots of the sale. Monet’s Le Bassin aux Nymphéas was sold to a New York bidder while a Hong Kong specialist acquired Picasso’s striking portrait of his muse, lover and companion Françoise Gilot. Trailing behind was a still life by French post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, which was hammered shy of its presale estimate.

Lot 1010 | Claude Monet, Le Bassin aux Nymphéas, 1917-1919

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 100 x 200 cm

  • Michel Monet, Giverny (by descent from the artist)
  • Galerie Maeght, Paris
  • Sam Salz, New York (acquired from the above in February 1965)
  • Mr. & Mrs. Konrad H. Matthaei, United States (acquired by 1966)
  • Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York (acquired from the above in the early 1970s)
  • Private Collection, Baltimore
  • Private Collection, Switzerland
  • Acquavella Gallery, New York
  • Fran & Ray Stark Foundation (acquired from the above in 1979 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 6, 2004, lot 133; price realized: US$16,808,000)
  • Private Collection, New York
  • Acquired circa 2006

Estimate upon request (Expected to fetch in the region of US$40,000,000)
Hammer price: US$61,000,000
Price realized: US$70,353,000


The star lot of the entire evening was one of the most coveted water lilies works from Monet’s late oeuvre. In 1883, the renowned artist moved into his new home in Giverny, France - where he built his water gardens that converges a tranquil pond, bamboo, rhododendron, and blossoming Japanese apple and cherry trees, all of which feature predominantly throughout his late canvases, including the present work executed between 1917 and 1919 and many of the works from the highly sought-after Nymphéas series.

Monet by his water garden at Giverny, photographed in 1905

Closer looks at the present work


Le Bassin aux Nymphéas features a daring colorway across the grand panels depicting the majestic willow trees surrounding the pond - which became the subjects of their own discrete series later on.

Viewers are transported to the pond, where shifting hues of florid pink tufts created by the vigorous and expressionistic brushwork are intriguingly reflected to heighten the sensual journey. 

The painting last went under the hammer 17 years ago, when it was sold for US$16.8m. The result last night was an over fourfold increase. 


Lot 1016 | Pablo Picasso, Femme assise en costume vert, 1953

Oil on board laid down on cradled board
Dimensions: 91.7 x 72.9 cm

  • Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
  • Private Collection (and sold: Sotheby's, London, December 2, 1986, lot 75)
  • Acquired at the above sale

Estimate: US$14,000,000 - 18,000,000
Hammer price: US$18,000,000
Price realized: US$20,946,000


Lot 1006 | Paul Cézanne, Nature morte: pommes et poires, circa 1880-1890

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 38.2 by 46.4 cm

  • Ambroise Vollard, Paris
  • Kurt von Mutzenbecher, Wiesbaden (acquired in 1904)
  • Otto Heinrich Adolf Henkell, Germany
  • Stefan Karl Michel Otto Henkell, Germany (by descent from the above in 1929)
  • Stefan-Karl Henkell & Veronika Henkell, Germany (by descent from the above in 1940)
  • ln storage with the Auktionhaus Rosenberg, Fr​​ankfurt am Main, 1941
  • ln storage with the Stadelsches Kunstinstitut. Frankfurt am Main (titled  Früchtesstilleben )  (until June 15, 1949 when restituted by the American Administration to Stefan-Karl & Veronika Henkell)
  • French Art Galleries. New York
  • Alex Hillman Family Foundation (acquired from the above in 1950 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 3, 1993, lot 20)
  • Robert Schmit, Paris (acquired at the above sale)
  • Private Collection (acquired from the above and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 5, 2003, lot 10)
  • Acquired at the above sale

Estimate: US$25,000,000 - 35,000,000
Hammer price: US$17,150,000
Price realized: US$19,969,350


Sale: Sotheby’s New York Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Lots offered: 33
Sold: 31
Unsold: 2
Sale rate: 94%
Sale total: US$221,325,350

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

The contemporary art sector continues to prevail and was evident in the white-glove sale, where all 32 lots offered found new owners, with five artist records broken. 

Making its auction debut, Basquiat’s 1982 masterpiece Versus Medici realized US$50.8m last night - lower than the US$93m skull painting by Basquiat, auctioned off at Christie’s New York the night before, nonetheless, it was a strong effort and a within-estimate result. 

Lot 105 | Jean-Michel Basquiat, Versus Medici, 1982

Acrylic, oilstick and paper collage on three joined canvases 
Dimensions: 214 x 137.8 cm

  • Larry Gagosian Gallery, New York
  • Stéphane Janssen (acquired from the above in October 1982)
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1990

Estimate: US$35,000,000 - 50,000,000
Hammer price: US$44,000,000
Price realized: US$50,820,000


The present lot by Basquiat features one of his most celebrated motifs, the single warrior-like figure against an impactful background of bright yellow, red, pink, and blue, that clash and effervesce the theatrical brushwork. 

In the early 1980s the subversive graffiti artist traveled to Italy, where he was introduced to Emilio Mazzoli, who later became his art dealer. Since then, the artist would make frequent trips to Florence and Rome during his artistic career, and the influences are observed in many of his works.

The present work serves as Basquiat’s take to confront the Italian Renaissance 


Basquiat crowns himself as the subject matter in the present 1982 painting, which serves as his confrontation with the legacy of Italian Renaissance masters. The anatomical detail of the Medici figure and the rebellious reimagination challenges such Italian virtuosos as Leonardo and Michelangelo.

Powered by the Black Lives Matter movement, another highlight of the sale came from Robert Colescott’s satirical intervention in American history and culture, here in the form of his 1975 painting, when it was sold for US$15.2m, more than 16 times the artist’s previous auction record of US$912,500.

After the sale, it was unveiled that the work will be going into the collection of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, located in Los Angeles.

Lot 108 | Robert Colescott, George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook, 1975

Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions:199.4 by 249.6 cm

  • The artist
  • Collection of John Berggruen, San Francisco (acquired from the above in 1975)
  • John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco
  • Private Collection, St. Louis (acquired from the above in 1976)
  • Thence by descent to the present owner

Estimate: US$9,000,000 - 12,000,000
Hammer price: US$13,100,000
Price realized: US$15,315,900


The 1975 painting by Colescott references Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware from 1851, which now resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Colescott's iteration radically rewrites the racial caricatures to underscore the glaring omission of the African-American narrative within the prevailing representations of American history, while confronting the issues of racism and inequity that are more than ever, relevant in today's society.

Meanwhile, touted by the auction house prior to the sale to be the first physical artwork to accept cryptocurrency as payment, Banksy’s Love is in the Air, elicited a cross-continent bidding battle between New York and Hong Kong, though whether the new owner of the pop art will pay the hammer price in crypto or fiat currency is not known at the moment. 

Banksy’s Love is in the Air received a total of 45 bids

Lot 104 | Banksy, Love is in the Air, 2005
Spray paint and oil on canvas
Dimensions: 90 x 90 cm

  • Lazarides Gallery, London
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2006

Estimate: US$3,000,000 - 5,000,000
Hammer price: US$11,000,000 (Cryptocurrency accepted)
Price realized: US$12,903,000


Sale: Sotheby’s New York Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Lots offered: 32
Sold: 32
Sale rate: 100%
Sale total: US$218,313,850

American Visionary: The Collection of Mrs. John L. Marion Sale

Prior to the contemporary art sale was one dedicated to late Texan philanthropist Anne Marion, heiress to the Four Sixes Ranch in Texas. She was also an avid art collector who had, over the years, donated hundreds of artworks, majority of them being acquired between 1970 and 1980. 

Many of her collections were unseen by the public for decades, including the fittingly Texan cowboy-themed work by Andy Warhol. A painting by American abstract expressionist artist Clyfford Still came in second, and Richard Diebenkorn stepped into third place with his US$27.3m luminous painting, titled Ocean Park #40 - a record high for the artist.

Anne Marion (1938-2020)

Lot 4 | Andy Warhol, Elvis 2 Times, 1963

Silkscreen ink and silver paint on linen
Dimensions: 207 x 181.3 cm

  • Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
  • Private Collection, New York
  • Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above in November 1999

Estimate: US$20,000,000 - 30,000,000
Hammer price: US$32,000,000
Price realized: US$37,032,000


Known for his pop art paintings and high-contrast silkscreens, Andy Warhol also painted some of the most famous celebrity portraits from Marilyn Monroe to Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s.

The present work, which was sold for US$37m, is based on a publicity still for the 1960 movie "Flaming Star," in which Elvis Presley played the role of a Texan rancher. The painting is among one of the most famous depictions of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll by the artist.

Warhol had made a total of 22 iterations of Double Elvis, all portraying two overlapping images of Elvis Presley in a gunslinger pose. One of the examples resides in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Another interpretation stunned the evening sale at Christie’s New York and was sold for a record-breaking US$53m.

MoMA’s Double Elvis (left) and Double Elvis that was sold in Christie’s 2019 (right)


Lot 8 | Clyfford Still, PH-125 (1948-No.1), 1948

Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 187.3 x 172.7 cm

  • Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York
  • Richard and Nancy Miller, Dayton, Ohio (acquired from the above in December 1969)
  • Ben Heller, New York
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above in March 1982 

Estimate: US$25,000,000 - 35,000,000
Hammer price: US$26,500,000
Price realized: US$30,712,500


Lot 6 | Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #40, 1971
Oil and charcoal on canvas
Dimensions: 236.2 by 205.1 cm
Estimate: US$20,000,000 - 30,000,000
Hammer price: US$23,500,000
Price realized: US$27,265,500


Sale: American Visionary: The Collection of Mrs. John L. Marion
Lots offered: 18
Sold: 14
Unsold: 4
Sale rate: 78%
Sale total: US$157,158,800