The sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’ and Phillips this week made a combined $1.99bn (£1.53bn) including premium.
This figure was roughly in line with the equivalent sales in November 2017. Last year’s sales posted $2.28bn, or $1.83bn if you remove the $450m generated by Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi, an Old Master painting that, exceptionally, was offered in a Contemporary art sale at Christie’s.
The stand-out price of the week for the current series again came at Christie’s as David Hockney’s Portrait of an ‘Artist (Pool with Two Figures) from 1972 became the most expensive work by a living artist when it was knocked down for $80m (£61.6m) on November 15.
The 7ft x 10ft (2.14 x 3.05m) acrylic on canvas was described by the auctioneers as “an immediately recognisable and iconic image in Hockney’s diverse oeuvre”. It was used on the front-cover of the catalogue for the dedicated Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain last year.
The price surpassed the previous record for a living artist – the $58.4m (including buyer’s premium) for a Jeff Koons balloon dog sold at Christie’s New York in November 2013.
Sotheby’s top price of the week came at its Contemporary art evening sale on November 14 when Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild from 1987 was knocked down at $29.5m (£22.7m), below the estimate which was ‘in the region of’ $30m.
More competition came for René Magritte’s Le Principe du Plaisir (The Pleasure Principle) which led its Impressionist & Modern art sale the night before. Multiple bidders pursued it against a $15m-20m estimate and it was knocked down at a $23.5m (£18.1m).
Christie’s week of sales also included the two-part auction of works from the collection of the late luxury travel magnate Barney A. Ebsworth. The first tranche offered at an evening sale on November 13 included a painting billed as the most important work by Edward Hopper (1882-1967) remaining in private hands.
Chop Suey from 1929 was estimated at $70m-100m and was knocked down to a phone bidder at $85m (£65.4m), setting a major record for the artist.
The previous record for Hopper according to Art Sales Index was the $40.5m (including premium) for East Wind Over Weehawken from 1934 that sold at Christie's New York in December 2013.
The Ebsworth evening sale generated a premium-inclusive total of $317.8m (£244.6m) with 37 of the 44 lots sold (88%).
Ebsworth himself became interested in art when stationed with the US Army in France in 1956, making weekly trips to the Louvre. He later made his fortune in cruise lines, founding the Intrav luxury travel business and becoming an early investor in the stuffed-animal phenomenon Build-A-Bear Workshop.