Mark Rothko, Orange, Red, Yellow, 1961
$86.9 million on an estimate of $35 million to $45 million
Christie’s Nets $388.5 Million in Highest Contemporary Art Auction Ever, Led by Record $87 Million Rothko
Artists records fell one after another: Rothko, Richter, Calder, Klein Pollock, Levine, many more
Last night auctioneer Christopher Burge hammered down an impressive $388.5 million total with premium during Christie’s post-war and contemporary auction, his last sale at the rostrum. It was the highest sum ever recorded for a contemporary art auction, and easily surpassed the sale’s $330 million high estimate.
Jackson Pollock, Number 28, 1951, 1951
$23 million on an estimate of $20 million to $30 million
The packed room was lively and saw a frenzy of bids for the key lots, led by a Mark Rothko work, Orange, Red, Yellow, from 1961 that hammered at $77.5 million ($86.9 million with the buyer’s premium), a new world record for any contemporary work sold at auction, and a new record for the artist. Artist records were shattered throughout the evening with a total of 11 new artist highs by the end of the 59-lot sale.
Barnett Newman, Onement V, 1952
$22.5 million on an estimate of $10 million to $15 million
The sell-through rate by lot at the two-hour auction was a superb 95 percent, with every lot finding a buyer until number 51, more than an hour into the sale, when Joan Mitchell’s densely colored painting When They Were Gone (1977) stalled at $1.8 million against a low estimate of $2 million and passed, eliciting groans from the audience.
Alexander Calder, Lily of Force, 1945
$18.6 million on an estimate of $8 million to $12 million
“We kinda broke the bank,” Contemporary Chairman and International Head Brett Gorvy said after rattling of a few of the records from the evening at the post-auction press conference.
Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (798-3), 1993
$21.8 million on an estimate of $14 million to $18 million
Many of the lots were new to auction from prominent estates, which accounted for some of the evening’s greatest successes. Mr. Burge was in a playful mood for the evening, especially during the bidding for the first Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (798-3) (1993), which saw some bidding from the phone bank that he deemed unacceptable.
Sherrie Levine, Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp), 1991
$962,500 on an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000
Mr. Gagosian went on to become the underbidder for the lot, which hammered at $19.4 million, $21.8 million with premium, narrowly beating another Richter abstract from 1997, which sold at Sotheby’s this fall for $20.8 million. Just as the hammer resounded, a bidder in the audience attempted to mount a last-second bid. Mr. Burge was not having it. “You messed me around long enough,” he said as he recorded the sale in his book.
A total of six Richters sold during the course of the evening, with the artist’s 1969 photorealist depiction of an empty sea selling for $19,346,500—the highest sum ever paid for a representational painting by the artist, edging out one of his iconic paintings of candles from 1982, which made $16.5 million last fall.
Yves Klein, FC1 (Fire Color 1), 1962
$36.5 million on an estimate of $30 million to $40 million
The Rothko, which came up not long after the first Richter, faced an artist’s record set by a work owned by David Rockefeller that sold at Sotheby’s in 2007 for $72.8 million, but the Christie’s Rothko shot up to $40 million from $24 million in 30 seconds. There followed six more minutes of drawn out bidding from Christie’s honchos, jostling for position at the phone bank to Mr. Burge’s right, all within five feet of each another. After the hammer fell for Mr. Gorvy’s bidder at $77.5 million, dealer Robert Mnu
chin, of L&M Arts, yelled from the crowd, “Christopher, that’s your going-away present!”Among the world records were new highs for Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman (his classic Onement V, from 1952, a lot that saw extensive bidding from Upper East Side dealer Christoph van de Weghe) and Yves Klein, all of which beat their previous records by at least $10 million. (Prime work from the artists is relatively rare in the auction market.)
As the names on those new records indicate, it was a huge evening for Abstract-Expressionism, and one telephone bidder—paddle number 1748—snagged both the record-setting Pollock (a 1951 piece, for $23 million) and a late Willem de Kooning (a spare 1983 work with a few colorful shapes against a white background, for $8.5 million).
Also among the artists earning records was Romare Bearden, making a rare appearance in an evening sale. The work that set the mark, at $338,500, was Strange Morning, Interior, from 1968, which was previously owned by the novelist Ralph Ellison, and was being sold by his charitable trust.
Early in the night an Alexander Calder mobile from 1952 broke that artist’s record when it sold for $10.4 million, beating a previous record of $6.3 million with premium, but then that record was broken by another Calder later in the evening, that one from 1945. The lot, an intricate standing mobile titled Lily of Force, made $18.6 million with premium and was guaranteed by a third party. Calders have reportedly sold for even more in private deals, but it’s clear that the auction market is heating up for the late artist.
Jeff Wall, Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986), 1992
$3.67 million on an estimate of $1.5 million to $2 million
An epically sized photographic transparency on a lightbox by Jeff Wall saw a determined bidder in the room but ultimately sold for a record $3.7 million to a phone bidder represented by specialist Loic Gouzer, who has not been having a bad week at all, having been spotted by Gatecrasher a few days ago flirting with the actress January Jones at a party. That sum puts Mr. Wall in a rarefied field of living photographers, including Richard Prince, Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman, whose work can earn million-dollar marks at auction.
At the press conference Mr. Gorvy said a good amount of the bidding tonight came from American collectors. (While the house used to release a geographic breakdown of where collectors live, it has decided to stop the practice. ”A lot of our buyers live in airplanes,” he said.)
“It’s not only that they paid whatever it was they paid, it was that you had two or three serious underbidders on most lots,” said dealer Emmanuel Di Donna after the auction. It represented a market ticking upward. “And it’s not over,” he added, “I’m just seeing bigger and bigger demand for good objects.”
The spring sales continue tomorrow with the contemporary sale at Sotheby’s.
Source: The Gallerist NY.
Andrew Russeth contributed reporting.
Munch’s The Scream raises market ceiling and overturns art media hierarchy [May 12]
This result substantially outranks Pablo PICASSO’s global all-time record for Nude, Green leaves and Bust which fetched $95m on 4 May 2010 at Christie’s New York. In fact, since 1990, only three new global records (in dollars) have been set: $75m for Vincent GOGH van’s Portrait du docteur Gachet on 15 May 1990; $93m for Le garçon à la pipe by Pablo PICASSO on 5 May 2004, who then beat his own record on 4 May 2010 with Nude, Green leaves and Bust ($95m).
However, the most astonishing aspect of this result is that the work in question is in fact a drawing!
Fifteen years ago, we were still in a world with a clearly defined artistic media hierarchy in which painting and sculpture were the two media favoured by major collectors, institutions and investors.
In recent years the increasing scarcity of works by the world’s most recognised artists coupled with the iconic dimension that certain works have acquired in the collective memory has completely overturned the traditional hierarchy. Drawing is no longer and will never more be considered a poor relation to painting. Several years ago, the record result for RAPHAEL’s Head of a Muse ($42.7m on 8 December 2009 at Christie’s London) already suggested that this hierarchy was crumbling. The Munch’s record confirms this trend, especially as over the last ten years (January 2002 – January 2012) the price index for drawings has progressed more than 197% versus 161% for that of painting.
Art has always been a symbolic value and a work like Edvard MUNCH’s The Scream, which condenses in a single image of just 79 x 59 cm the entire anguish of humanity, can be considered the “Mona Lisa of Expressionism”.
In just one adjudication, the Norwegian artist has completely outperformed his 2011 revenue total ($7,645,527 from 82 lots ) and has gained the potential to climb to a substantially higher level in the global ranking of artists by annual auction revenue (219th in 2011).