Barely recovered from last week's feast of art fairs, parties and innumerable special events, Christie's and Sotheby's are kicking off their mid-season contemporary art sales this week in New York; Sotheby's begins today, at 10 am, and Christie's tomorrow. Held bi-annually, these sales have become a useful way to place the works that didn't fit into the multi-million May and November sales, and a way to test market performance for young artists. With prices ranging from $1,500 to $120,000, "they are both aimed to attract starting collectors and seasoned buyers looking for particular works," says Christie's Head of Open House Sale Alex Carel.
Among the over 250 lots at Sotheby's, one can find a range of pieces including works on paper by Alexander Calder, Willem De Kooning, Sam Francis and Andy Warhol, to a caviar painting by East German Georg Herold, and a triptych by Karen Kilimnik estimated at $100,000 to $150,000. Christie's slightly edgier "First Open" sale will include a close-up photograph of Maurizio Cattelan's famous baby elephant, "Not Afraid of Love," an outstanding portrait of Meyer Schapiro by Alice Neel estimated at $80,000 - $120,000, and several photographs by Vik Muniz, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman.
Following the staggering results at the auction of Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Berge's collection two weeks ago -- which set a number of records for artists such as Brancusi, de Chirico, Mondrian and Matisse -- these sales may serve as barometer for the more volatile contemporary art market. Without official sales figures from the Armory Show, where most dealers claimed to have done exceptionally well when asked by the press but remain hesitant to share the hard numbers, the art world will hold its breath for the next 48 hours.