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Alexander Calder Leads Sotheby's $62.54m 'Modern Day Auction' in New York

3 min read  · 15 Nov 2023

Untitled by Alexander Calder sold for $2.72m. Image courtesy of Sotheby's

A work by Alexander Calder was the headline sale at Sotheby's 'Modern Day Auction' on November 14 in New York.

  • The sale totaled $62.54m, falling short of its pre-sale low estimate.

Snapshot of the sale

  • 259 works sold totaling $62.54m.

  • Estimates totaled: $63.56m (low) and $91.72m (high), excluding premiums.

  • The sell-through rate was 74% of the original 351 lots announced.

The star lot was: Alexander Calder, Untitled (1955), which sold for $2.72m, 150% above its $1m low estimate. It has been traded 3 times in the past.

The outperformer sold for 900% above its low estimate. Emiliano di Cavalcanti, Sem título (1928), sold for $317,500 ($30,000 low estimate). It has been traded 3 times in the past.

A talking point was Frida Kahlo, The Miscarriage (Frida and the Miscarriage) (1932), which sold for $508,000, 400% above its $100,000 low estimate. The work on paper, plus eight letters, telegram and a photograph, was acquired from the artist and then by descent by the seller.

Breakdown of results against auction house estimates that are disclosed

  • 110 works, or 42%, sold above their high estimate.

  • 116 works, or 45%, sold within their low and high estimate.

  • 33 works, or 13%, sold below their low estimate.

  • 0 sold with undisclosed estimates.

Guaranteed sales

17 works were backed by guarantees, including: Andre Derain, Bords de Seine à Chatou (1904). It sold for $1.75m, 16% above its $1.5m low estimate. It has been traded 3 times in the past.

Works that did not sell

88 works were bought-in, including: Joan Miro, Peinture (1927), estimated at $1m (low) to $1.5m (high). It has been traded 4 times in the past.

Withdrawn before the sale

4 works were withdrawn before the sale, including: Paul Delvaux, La Légende égyptienne (1953), estimated at $600,000 (low) to $800,000 (high).

Terms and definitions

All results include the fees and premiums added to the price of a work of art when the auctioneer's hammer falls. Sale prices are compared to the auction house’s low estimate, which do not include premiums.

Guarantees: Sometimes an auction house guarantees to pay a seller for a work, regardless of whether the bidding reaches the reserve price, a figure that is typically confidential.

Bought-in: If there are no bids for a work, or if bidding falls short of the reserve price, the lot is unsold or “bought-in”.

Withdrawn: This happens when a seller decides, for whatever reason, to withdraw a work before the bidding begins.

Premiums: Typically a sliding-scale of charges paid in addition to the hammer price by the buyer, plus any other fees.


Sandy Calder

New York