During Sotheby’s sale of contemporary art in New York, a remarkable 1996 Spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois reached a staggering price of $32.8 million. This sale exceeded the artist’s previous auction record of $32.1 million, which was set four years ago.

Bourgeois’ towering bronze sculpture, standing at 10 feet tall, was sold by Fundação Itaú, a Brazilian foundation established by Banco Itaú Unibanco S.A. The foundation had acquired the artwork in 1996 at the 23rd Biennial de São Paulo, after it was purchased by Olavo Setubal, a founder of Itaú Unibanco, for a reported sum of $450,000.

Sotheby’s contemporary art sale proved to be a significant event, with a total realization of $167.5 million. This figure includes the $32.7 million achieved from “The Now” sale, which featured ultra-contemporary works. The combined total of $204.7 million fell within the estimated range of $169 million to $229.4 million.

Louise Bourgeois’ Maman (1999) outside the Tate Modern in London. AP Photo/Nathan Strange

The evening at Sotheby’s showcased both the strengths and strains of the art market. One notable occurrence was the withdrawal of a Yoshitomo Nara painting, which was expected to fetch as high as $18 million. Furthermore, four lots failed to attract bidders. However, six artists achieved auction records, and more than two-thirds of the works sold surpassed the high end of their estimated price ranges.

Among the notable records, Justin Caguiat’s “to the approach of beauty its body is fungible, 2020,” sold for three times its high presale estimate, reaching $620,000 ($787,400 with fees). Simon Leigh’s “Las Meninas II, 2019,” also sold within expectations at $3.1 million with fees, breaking the artist’s auction record for the second time in the same week.

Notable sales in the contemporary art category included Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Now’s the Time, 1985,” which fetched $25.5 million ($28.6 million with fees) from Peter Brant’s collection. This sale fell slightly below the estimate of over $30 million. Additionally, Gerhard Richter’s “4096 Farben, 1974,” sold for $20.5 million ($21.8 million with fees), surpassing the previous record for a Color Chart painting by the artist.

Wayne Thiebaud’s “Candy Counter, 1969,” also achieved a strong result, selling for $12.5 million ($14.7 million with fees).

The contemporary sale at Sotheby’s saw a 100% sell-through rate, although five lots were withdrawn before the auction commenced.

Sotheby’s reported that works by female artists in both sales garnered $50.4 million, accounting for nearly a quarter of the combined total of $204.7 million from the evening’s auctions. Over two-thirds of the works by women artists exceeded their high estimates. Notable among these sales was Nicole Eisenman’s “Night Studio, 2009,” which sold during “The Now” sale for $2.4 million, including fees.

The auction house also highlighted the significant presence of Black artists in “The Now” sale, representing more than half of the offered works. Kerry James Marshall’s “Untitled (Mask Boy), 2014,” fetched $5.7 million, while Henry Taylor’s “From Congo to the Capital, and black again, 2007,” achieved nearly $2.5 million, setting an auction record for the artist.