In 2021, the top auction houses reinvested their time and energy in evening sales, which had been sidelined as a result of the pandemic. They were successful, drawing back collectors across the globe to their marquee sales after a long hiatus. In the process, the houses generated records for various artists.
This past November alone, an Agnes Martin painting from the collection of Harry and Linda Macklowe sparked a bidding war, eventually selling for a record price of $17.7 million; Christie’s set a milestone for Gustave Caillebotte during the sale of the Texas oil magnate Edwin Cox; and other record prices were notched for Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Lee Bontecou and more. While this big sums tended to hog the spotlight, interesting activity was also taking place at smaller houses, most notably Swann, where the African American art department ended 2021 with a new high.
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A survey of the year’s 10 defining auction records follows below.