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Joan Mitchell Leads Sotheby's $81.66m 'Contemporary Day Auction' in New York

3 min read  · 17 Nov 2023

Untitled by Joan Mitchell sold for $3.81m. Image courtesy of Sotheby's

A work by Joan Mitchell, which had a guarantee, was the headline sale at Sotheby's 'Contemporary Day Auction' on November 16 in New York.

  • The sale totaled $81.66m, meeting the pre-sale estimate.

Snapshot of the sale

  • 262 works sold totaling $81.66m.

  • Estimates totaled: $73.23m (low) and $105.8m (high), excluding premiums.

  • The sell-through rate was 78% of the original 335 lots announced.

The star lot was: Joan Mitchell, Untitled (1960), which sold for $3.81m, 36% above its $2.8m low estimate. The work was backed by a guarantee. It has been traded 3 times in the past.

The outperformer sold for 1100% above its low estimate. Pam Evelyn, Assisted Step (2021), sold for $127,000 ($10,000 low estimate). It has been traded twice in the past.

A talking point was Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Sawmill (1987), which sold for $571,500, 600% above its $80,000 low estimate. The work has been traded twice in the past.

Breakdown of results against auction house estimates that are disclosed

  • 128 works, or 49%, sold above their high estimate.

  • 87 works, or 33%, sold within their low and high estimate.

  • 47 works, or 18%, sold below their low estimate.

  • 0 sold with undisclosed estimates.

Guaranteed sales

72 works were backed by guarantees, including: Joan Mitchell, Untitled (1960), which sold for $3.81m.

Works that did not sell

57 works were bought-in, including: Yayoi Kusama, Death of an Illusion (2001), estimated at $1.2m (low) to $1.8m (high). It has been traded once in the past.

Withdrawn before the sale

15 works were withdrawn before the sale, including: Jonas Wood, Mickey and Minnie Mouse Frimkess Pot (2018) estimated at $1m (low) to $1.5m (high).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Withdrawn: This happens when a seller decides, for whatever reason, to withdraw a work before the bidding begins.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.


Joan Mitchell

New York