Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Self Portrait” (1983), (image courtesy Phillips)

Two Dutch Golden Age paintings will be returned to the family of art collector Jacob Lierens. Lierens was a 20th-century Jewish businessman who was detained by the Nazis. Pieces of his collection were acquired by Adolf Hitler’s art hunter, Hans Posse. The paintings to be returned are “Banquet Scene with Musicians and Shuffle Board Players in an Interior” (1628) by Dirck Francoisz Hals and “Still Life with Glass, Glass Stand and Musical Instruments” (17th century) by Jan Davidsz de Heem.

A painting of beloved cartoon buffoon Spongebob Squarepants by the artist KAWS sold for $5,955,000 at Phillips Auction House’s Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art on May 16, more than seven times its estimated value. The sale brought in a total of $99,932,750, a number buoyed by sales of paintings by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cy Twombly, and Willem de Kooning. De Kooning and Basquiat topped the lots, with their pieces “Untitled XVI” (1976) and “Self Portrait” (1983) selling for $10,268,000 and $9,500,000, respectively. The sale also set new auction records for the artists Tomoo Gokita, Nicolas Party, and Dana Schutz.

KAWS, “The Walk Home,” (2012), (image courtesy Phillips)

Phillips’ Photographs Sale auction in London on May 16 brought in £1,849,188 (~$2,340,877) across 163 lots. Man Ray’s “La Prière” commanded $100,000 price tag while Annie Leibovitz’s portrait, “Queen Elizabeth II, The White Drawing Room, Buckingham Palace, London” is still up for grabs.

Christie’s New York American Art auction in New York on May 22 brought in $32,668,750 on the steam of sales like Marsden Hartley’s “Abstraction” (1912-13) for $6,744,500 and Norman Rockwell’s “Homecoming” (1945) for $6,517,500. The auction’s online component raked in another $2,087,250, moving pieces by the likes of Edward Hopper, Edmund Coates, and Harriet Whitney Frishmuth.

Christie’s Latin American Art sale on May 22 and 23 brought $17,483,125. A painting by Remedios Varo, “Simpatía (La rabia del gato)” (1955) went for $3,135,000 and Fernando Botero’s sculpture “Mother and Child” (1990) sold for $1,695,000.

Rembrandt Bugatti’s bronze sculpture of a jaguar, “‘Jaguar Accroupi’, Grand Modèle, Vers 1907” (1907) sold for €826,000 (~$923,840) at Christie’s May 21 Design sale, topping the lots on that auction. Pieces by Diego Giacometti, Jean Goulden, and Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne joined Bugatti’s sculpture near the top of an auction at totaled €4,863,375 (~$5,438,736).

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction on May 21 moved $105,804,500 worth of art across two sessions. The top two of the bunch were David Hockney’s “Pool and Pink Pole” (1984), which sold for $3,140,000 and Mark Tansey’s “Portage” (1999), auctioned off at $3,080,000. Gracing the bottom of the list? John Davies “Head of a Man” (1988), which went to a lucky buyer for just $1,750.

At the Sotheby’s American Art sale on May 21, Sanford Robinson Gifford’s “A Lake at Twilight” (1861) went for $2,900,000 — more than 15% of the auction’s total $19,021,250 receipt split among 82 other lots.

Sales at Sotheby’s Dreaming in Glass: Masterworks by Tiffany Studios on May 23 topped out at $4,088,250, with “An Important ‘Elaborate Peony’ Floor Lamp” going for $692,000.

Sotheby’s Important Design auction on May 23 captured $16,215,750. Notable pieces sold included François-Xavier Lalanne’s patinnated bronze sculpture of an ape, “Singe Avisé (Grand)” for  $2,420,000

The Sotheby’s Master Paintings Collection sale on May 22, which totaled 6,544,375, gave a new home Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrick van Balen the Elder’s “The Triumph of Love” (circa 1608) for a $212,500 price tag, as well as a set of six religious figures by Giusto dé Menabuoi, cast in tempera and gold ground on panel, for $375,000.

Sotheby’s 19th Century European Art sale the same day sold another $6,385,000 worth of paintings. The top lot of the bunch was Julius Leblanc Stewart’s “Five O’Clock Tea” (1883-84), which sold for $1,880,000. “Five O’Clock Tea” once hung at Kugler’s Restaurant for Ladies and Gentlemen in Philadelphia.

Barkley L. Hendricks, “J.S.B. III” (1968) (image courtesy PAFA)

Chitra Ganesh, “Delicate Line: Corpse She Was Holding” (2010), (image courtesy PAFA)

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has made several acquisitions to add to their collection in the Furness and Hewitt Historic Landmark Building, including 30 paintings in an exhibition called Eye Contact. Curated by Jodi Throckmorton, the installation’s paintings are all portraits “arranged according to the subject’s gave,” per materials provided by PAFA. That means work like a nude self-portrait by Kukuli Velarde accompanying the enigmatic stare of a man in sunglasses by Barkley L. Hendricks. A set of 11 silkscreen prints by Chitra Ganesh, including “Delicate Line: Corpse She Was Holding” (2010) were also recently acquired and are for sale at PAFA’s Brodsky Center.

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Eric Vilas-Boas

Eric Vilas-Boas is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic. He has previously worked at Thrillist, Esquire, SPIN,, and his writing has appeared at Vulture, Slashfilm, Lit Hub, Paste,...

One reply on “Spongebob Painting Goes for $6M, Annie Leibovitz Portrait of Queen Still Up for Grabs”

  1. Can someone remind me how it’s legally possible to sell a drawing of Spongebob for $6M without legal repercussions from the copyright holders? Would Disney be so kind if the painting was of Mickey?

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