Opportunities to Discover Artistic Brilliance Abound in the Summer of 2023

Posted on: September, 13, 2023
4 min hours

Summer typically ushers in a period of relative tranquillity in the art market. Still, this year, Summer 2023 has proven to be a captivating season, marked by a compelling fusion of artistic endeavours and historic sales. London’s esteemed June auctions, orchestrated by illustrious houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips, have woven a multifaceted narrative. While some lots witnessed performances that deviated from initial expectations, others soared to unprecedented heights, smashing previous records and surpassing estimated values.

Let us embark on a curated journey through a selection of the most noteworthy sales that unfolded during this summer.

Gustav Klimt, Study of an Old woman

Early summer auction sales 

Starting with the record sale of Klimt’s artwork “Dame mit Fächer” (Lady with a Fan), let’s look at what else happened in the art market. 

1. Gustav Klimt’s “Dame mit Fächer” (Lady with a Fan)
Price: £85.3 million ($106.8 million)
Auction House: Sotheby’s

In the limelight, we encounter Gustav Klimt’s resplendent masterpiece, “Dame mit Fächer,” which etched an indelible mark on the summer art stage. Crafted in 1918, this opulent portrait by the Austrian maestro reached a new zenith for Klimt’s works at auction. Notably, it claimed the title of the most expensive artwork ever sold at a European auction house, eclipsing the record previously held by Alberto Giacometti’s “L’homme qui marche I” in 2010.

2. Arthur Jafa’s “Monster”
Price: £139,700 ($174,828) (179% above mid-estimate)
Auction House: Sotheby’s

The photograph “Monster” by Arthur Jafa soared to unprecedented heights, etching a new chapter in the artist’s journey by establishing an auction record. Jafa’s oeuvre delves deep into the intricate fabric of Black culture and experience, solidifying his stature as a luminary in the realm of contemporary art.

3. Duncan McCormick’s “Trevor’s Dream”
Price: £177,800 ($225,455) (1,322% above mid-estimate)
Auction House: Phillips

British painter Duncan McCormick’s meteoric ascent continues with “Trevor’s Dream.” His distinctive artistic language, characterized by vibrant hues and idiosyncratic perspectives, seized the attention of discerning collectors.

4. Ellen Berkenblit’s “Nite Vibe”
Price: £40,640 ($51,260) (63% above mid-estimate)
Auction House: Phillips

Ellen Berkenblit’s vibrant and dynamic paintings, reminiscent of mid-20th-century comic strip artistry, took center stage in the secondary market. “Nite Vibe” set a resounding auction record for the artist, showcasing her ability to meld influences from Japanese woodblock prints, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art.

5. Ludovic Nkoth’s “Identity of the Moment”
Price: £63,500 ($80,520) (27% above mid-estimate)
Auction House: Phillips

Cameroonian artist Ludovic Nkoth’s “Identity of the Moment” provided an intimate window into his artistic practice, inspired by luminaries such as Charles White and Kerry James Marshall. Nkoth’s vivid hues and expressive brushwork capture the essence of Black diasporic communities, reflecting his own experiences of migration and cultural dislocation.

D'Aprés Rembrandt, Portrait of Rembrandt's Mother

Summer auctions around the world 

This summer Sotheby’s celebrated a triumphant return to Singapore after a 15-year absence. As part of their 50th-anniversary celebration in Asia, Sotheby’s had set out to further solidify its presence in Singapore with a Modern and Contemporary Art sale scheduled for the 2nd of July. The auction had shone a spotlight on 20th and 21st-century artists, with a special emphasis on celebrated female artists such as Georgette Chen, Christine Ay Tjoe, Jane Lee, and Kei Imazu, along with contemporary stars like Javier Calleja. Key highlights had included LIU Kang’s significant work “Pounding Rice” (estimated at $280,000 – $370,000 and sold for $ 515,462) and LE PHO’s “Jeune fille à la fleur” (estimated at $193,000 – $280,000 and sold for $271,790).

July had brought an Evening Auction of Old Masters & 19th Century Paintings at Sotheby’s, featuring a remarkable panel by the early Netherlandish painter, “The Master of the Baroncelli Portraits” (estimated at £7,000,000 – £ 10,000,000 and sold for £7,897,800 GBP) —a rarity of profound significance. Other notable pieces had included an early depiction of St. Sebastian by Rubens (estimated at £4,000,000 – £6,000,000 and sold at £4,895,600), a devotional panel by Domenico Beccafumi (estimated at £3,000,000 – £4,000,000 and sold at £5,105,600), portraits by esteemed artists like Velázquez and Jacques-Louis David, and 19th-century landscapes and interiors like the one by Vincenzo Cabianca (estimated at £800,000 – £1,200,000 and sold for £956,000). An exceptional highlight had been the last major satirical painting by Hogarth in private hands.

Gustav Klimt, Female Nude Lying with Scarf

Spanning six centuries of European art, the July Old Masters Part I Sale at Christie’s had offered a diverse array of paintings, sculptures, and illuminations across various themes. Highlights had included the rediscovery of Rembrandt’s “Portrait of Jan Willemsz. van der Pluym” and “Jaapgen Carels,” (estimated at £5,000,000 – 8,000,000 and sold for £11,235,000) rare and intimate portrayals of the artist’s relatives and the last known pair of Rembrandt portraits in private ownership. The auction had also featured Cornelis van Haarlem’s Northern Mannerism masterpiece, “The Raising of Lazarus,” (estimated at £700,000 – 1,000,000 and sold for £1,371,000), Jan Breughel the Elder’s “Allegory of Spring” (estimated at £600,000 –800,000 and sold for £1,734,000).

Old Masters Part II Sale presented a diverse selection of paintings and sculptures from European schools dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries, with a wide range of price estimates. Highlights had included the rediscovered painting “The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds” by Jacopo Bassano (estimated at £60,000 – 80,000 and sold for £63,000). British portraiture had spanned centuries from the early 1600s to works by George Romney (estimated at £50,000 – 80,000and sold for £69,300). Additionally, an outstanding collection of sporting works by artists like James Seymour (estimated at £100,000 – 150,000 and sold for £126,000) had added diversity to the auction.

With those exciting auctions on the horizon, the art world had been in for a captivating July, filled with remarkable discoveries and artistic treasures that had found new homes.

D'Aprés Rembrandt, Rembrandt's Mother With The Lace Cap


In this vibrant and dynamic art world, even the summer months offer a wealth of possibilities to immerse oneself in creativity and appreciation for the remarkable talents shaping our visual landscape. So, as the sun continues to shine, don’t miss the chance to explore the ever-evolving art scene, where the next masterpiece may be just a bid away.

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