Hockney’s Woldgate Woods (2006), carrying an estimate of $9-12m, was hammered down at a mid-estimate $10.2m (£8.2m), breaking his auction record. Hockney’s previous auction high was a premium inclusive $5.33m (£4.3m) for Arranged felled trees (2008) which sold at Sotheby’s in London last year.
Amid the uncertain economic outlook, vendors in the art market have held back this year which has led to smaller auctions. Sales totals for Sotheby's and Christie's for November are around half of last year's total.
Speaking to CNBC ahead of the evening sale yesterday, Sotheby’s chief executive and president Tad Smith admitted the uncertainty in the wider market had impacted the overall level of sales.
“For the past 15-16 months there is a long list of buyers who have money to spend and want to buy things," said Smith.
“The trouble, particularly in the last 6-12 months, has been there hasn’t been enough to be offered (at auction).
He added: “I think the spring will be better. Consigners will feel better. We have to convince the sellers that the buyers are there.”
The Sotheby’s evening sale opened with 25 lots from The Steven & Ann Ames Collection. Steven Ames, the late partner of investment bank Oppenheimer, was a patron of the arts and a collector of post-war and contemporary art. He died in March this year.
The Ames collection included works by Gerhard Richter and Willem de Kooning and the first part of their sale fetched $122.8m (£99m), including premium. The entire evening sale achieved a total hammer price of $237.4m (£191.1m).
Ames’s Gerhard Richter’s A B, Still, (1986) oil on canvas, had been purchased 25 years ago at Sotheby’s New York for $264,000. It sold on its high estimate at $30m (£24.1m).
The second part of the Ames sale takes place today at Sotheby’s Contemporary art day auction.
Head of Sotheby’s contemporary art department in New York Grégoire Billault said last night’s sale matched “the demands of today’s collectors”.
He added: “David Hockney stands alongside Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud as one of the pillars of post-war British art.”
Hockney’s Woldgate Woods landscape had previously been shown as part of the Royal Academy’s 2012 exhibition David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, which featured large-scale paintings inspired by his native East Yorkshire landscape. Throughout 2006, Hockney executed a limited series of paintings of the Woldgate Woods.
A major retrospective of Hockney is planned at Tate Britain, opening in February next year.