BIDDING FROM ALL SIDES AT CHRISTIE'S CONTEMPORARY
Federal Reserve Board chief Alan Greenspan says the U.S. economy is fundamentally sound, and the art market seems to agree. At the Christie's New York Nov. 13 evening auction of post-war and contemporary art, 62 of 75 lots sold, or 83 percent, for a total of $66,921,785 (including the auction-house premium). "It was 75 lots of excitement," said auctioneer Christopher Burge after the sale. "With bidding at all levels from all over the world." The auction was well-estimated: 28 lots sold above their high presale estimate, 20 sold within the estimate and 14 sold below the low estimate.
The large sale -- one of the largest in recent memory -- included two major collections. The Israel Phoenix Assurance Company group featured nine Abstract Expressionist, Pop and Post-Minimalist works assembled by insurance magnate Joseph Hackmey, being sold by new company management. And collectors Rita and Toby Schrieber put 10 works by Pop and Color Field painters on the block to raise funds to finance a new educational foundation. Both collections were 100 percent sold, going for $19.1 million and $10 million, respectively.
The auction's top lot was Jasper Johns' large gray painting of 0 through 9 (1961), which sold for $9,909,500 (est. $6 million-$8 million) after a dramatic, three-way bidding war. It began in the room, with New York dealers from Richard Gray Gallery and C&M Arts battling it out until an anonymous telephone bidder came in at $8.6 million -- and eventually won the lot. The work was originally purchased by Hackmey for $2.3 million at Christie's New York in 1992. After the sale, dealers were speculating that the dueling bidders included Leslie Wexner and David Geffen, who is thought to have won the work, according to a report by Carol Vogel in the New York Times.
Roy Lichtenstein's Happy Tears (1964), a large comic-style portrait of a red-headed woman whose eyes are brimming with tears, sold to a telephone bidder for $7,159,500 (est. $5 million-$7 million). The price is a new auction record for the artist; Lichtenstein's previous record, $6,050,000, was set at Christie's back in 1990. The work was being sold by Philadelphia collectors Robert and Janet Kardon.
The auction also set records for Barnett Newman ($3,859,500), David Hockney ($2,869,500), Morris Louis ($1,659,500), Dan Flavin ($405,500) and the young West Coast painter Laura Owens ($47,800). The price paid for a large Takashi Murakami painting from 1999, $427,500, tied the artist's auction record.
The sale included seven works by Andy Warhol. Two made it into the top ten: a pink-toned Big Electric Chair (1967) that went for $4,959,500 (est. $3 million-$4 million), and a small diptych Self-Portrait (1964) that sold for $2,649,500 (est. $2.5 million-$3.5 million). The Self-Portrait was originally bought from the Stable Gallery by famed Pop art collectors Bob and Ethel Scull, and was sold for $28,600 to the present owner by Sotheby's New York at the Scull sale in 1986.
The Warhol market is one of the most active around, but it's not quite active enough to absorb either the 1986 camouflage Statue of Liberty (est. $450,000-$650,000) or the 1985 red Camouflage Last Supper (est. $1.5 million-$2.5 million). Both works were passed.
The sale seemed to confirm the auction market for many of our contemporary blue chips. Among works by 1980s artists, a large color photograph of Marlboro cowboys by Richard Prince went for $185,500, a Jeff Koons color photo on canvas of Cicciolina and himself in coitus went for $328,500, Christopher Wool's Run Dog Eat Dog sold for $273,500 and a hair-covered beeswax torso by Robert Gober sold for $724,500. Among works by artists of the '90s, a group of five color photos from Cremaster 4 by Matthew Barney sold for $229,500. Both paintings in the sale by John Currin were passed.
Successful bidders spotted in the room included Manhattan dealer and former Christie's specialist Philippe Ségalot, who won three works: the Warhol Electric Chair, an early Bruce Nauman drawing and a large Gilbert & George photo piece from 1978. Christoph van de Weghe, the young dealer who recently opened his own gallery on West 23rd Street in Chelsea with an impressive exhibition of Nauman works, bought two Nauman drawings.
Larry Gagosian won Alexander Calder's elegant, black-painted mobile from 1946, S-Shaped Vine, for $2,594,500. And veteran art dealer Jan Krugier brought a little levity to the proceedings near the end of the sale, when he insisted, from his seat in the front row, on buying a 1981 Basquiat painting for $635,000 at the hammer, rather than bidding at the more orthodox increment of $640,000.
Several anonymous telephone bidders went on buying sprees, too. The Lichtenstein and Ed Ruscha's 1969 Desire went to the same buyer, while another bidder bought works by Matthew Barney, On Kawara and the Barnett Newman. Still another bidder bought the Wool and a 1987 copper and Plexiglas stack sculpture by Donald Judd. And another bought a 1973 Charles Ray photo (of the artist tied to a tree branch) and a 1985 Inverted Sink by Robert Gober.
For complete illustrated results, see Artnet's Fine Art Auctions Report.
$78 MILLION AT SOTHEBY'S CONTEMPORARY
It was a long evening at Sotheby's New York on Nov. 12, when a total of 68 lots went on the block in pair of back-to-back sales, each with its own catalogue. But the market easily absorbed the material, as 51 works sold for a total of $78 million (including the auction-house premium). That's 78 percent sold by lot. Sotheby's experts were effusive. "Very, very healthy results," said auctioneer Tobias Meyer. Sotheby's contemporary sales are now "inching up to our Impressionist totals, which tells you something about the market," he said.
The first catalogue included 21 lots from "a private American collection" that has been widely reported to belong to San Francisco banker Thomas Weisel, who says he is selling to refocus his buying on newer art. The group was a strong mix of Abstract Expressionist and Bay Area painters, and included five de Koonings, four Gorkys, three Thiebauds, three Klines and two Diebenkorns. The collection sold for a total of $33.5 million, with 13 of 21 lots, or 62 percent, finding buyers. Sotheby's CEO William Ruprecht noted after the auction that the house had offered the consignor a guarantee -- reported to be about $40 million -- and that though the sale did "slightly less than expected," Sotheby's doesn't expect it to result in any financial loss.
Star lot of the Weisel collection -- and the night as a whole -- was Willem de Kooning's Orestes, a small (about 24 x 36 in.) black and white abstraction from 1947 that sold after a telephone duel for $13,209,500 (est. $8 million-$10 million). The Weisel auction went on to establish new records four artists: Franz Kline ($4,519,500), Wayne Thiebaud ($3,089,500), David Park ($779,500) and Nathan Oliveira ($317,500). The sale also set new records for works on paper by Arshile Gorky ($697,000) and de Kooning ($3,749,500).
The same unidentified buyer bought both the record-setting Thiebaud and the Park. The Olivera went to San Francisco dealer John Berggruen, while Manhattan dealer Robert Mnuchin of C&M Arts bought de Kooning's Woman (1952), the record work on paper.
The second two-thirds of the sale, with its "mixed owner" catalogue, sold 38 of 45 lots, or 84 percent, for about $44.7 million. The auction featured a rather wide range of Pop and contemporary art -- it looked quite good, actually -- and included three works by Alexander Calder and 11 by Andy Warhol. But the top price was paid for an untitled Cy Twombly "chalkboard" painting from 1970, which went for $5,619,500 (est. $4 million-$6 million). The buyer was again Robert Mnuchin, who was presumably on the phone to a client. C&M also bought the number two lot, Roy Lichtenstein's 1961 Step-on Can with Leg, for $4,849,500 (est. $2 million-$3 million).
The sale's two high prices for Warhol works were paid for a small 1963 Lavender Marilyn, which sold for $4,629,500 (est. $4 million-$6 million), and a large, blue-tinted 1986 Self-Portrait in fright wig, which sold for $2,649,500 (est. $2,200,000-$2,800,000). SoHo dealer Tony Shafrazi was the winning bidder for the latter self-portrait.
This part of the sale also set auction records for two artists. Philip Guston's Painter in Bed sold to a telephone bidder for $1,879,000 (est. $1,200,000-$1,800,000), and Mark Tansey's Achilles and the Tortoise (1986), a monochrome painting of a rocket whose jet plume mimics the shape of a nearby giant fir tree, sold for $999,500 (est. $500,000-$700,000). Dealer Larry Gagosian was the buyer of the Tansey; the famously slow-producing artist, who hasn't had a solo show in New York in several years, recently signed on with the Gagosian Gallery. Tansey's previous auction record of $242,000 was set at Christie's in 1992.
The sale included many other interesting prices. The same bidder -- Rachel Mauro from New York dealers Dickinson Roundell, according to the Baer Faxt -- bought both abstract paintings by Gerhard Richter, for $2,209,500 and $449,500. A seven-foot-wide yellow enamel tondo impressed with real butterflies by Damien Hirst sold for $537,500 (est. $500,000-$700,000); top price for a Hirst butterfly painting is $750,500, paid for a eight-foot-wide diptych at Phillips New York in 2002. A 106-inch-long carved cedar and pine sculpture by Martin Puryear, Divide (1988), sold for $471,500 (est. $350,000-$450,000).
German collector Udo Brandhorst, who has prevailed on the government of Bavaria to build a museum for his collection next to the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, bought Edward Ruscha's 1986 Ghost Ship for $427,500 (est. $350,000-$450,000). Matthew Marks bought a stainless steel abstract canvas by Ellsworth Kelly for $361,500 (est. $400,000-$600,000), and late in the auction Larry Gagosian bought an animated 1981 drawing by Jean-Michel Basquiat (inscribed "For Henry Geldzahler") for $240,500 (est. $150,000-$200,000).
As always, for complete, illustrated results, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.
$25 MILLION AT PHILLIPS CONTEMPORARY
The art market continued on its merry way at the Nov. 11 evening sale of contemporary art at Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg, the first of a week-long group of contemporary auctions. Facing a noisy and agitated room of art dealers and collectors, auctioneer Simon de Pury knocked down 40 of 46 lots, or almost 87 percent, for a total of $24,866,025 (including the auction-house premium of 19.5 percent on the first $100,000 and 10 percent on the remainder).
Though the results were good, the bidders were few, and most of the works sold at the low end of their presale estimates. (Sometimes it seemed that de Pury was simply brokering a public sale between a consigner and a single buyer.) Still, compared to last week's dismal result in Impressionist and modern (see Art Market Watch, 11/5/02), it was "a fantastic success," said de Pury after the sale.
The five top lots are the blue-chip contemporary market in a nutshell. Number one was Andy Warhol's Silver Liz (1963), which went for $4,409,500 (est. $4 million-$6 million). Number two was Gerhard Richter's serene landscape Troisdorf (572-2) (1985), which sold for $3,199,50 (est. $2.5 million-$3.5 million). The same bidder -- an unidentified lady in the second row, reported to be from Gallery Seomi in Seoul -- bought number three, Cy Twombly's Minimalist gray "blackboard" painting, Untitled (Bolsena), for $2,869,500 (est. $2.5 million-$3.5 million). Jeff Koons' carved marble self-portrait from 1991 (in an edition of three) was number four, selling for $2,044,500 (est. $1.5 million-$2 million). And Jean-Michel Basquiat's untitled oversized oilstick drawing on plywood from 1982 sold for $1,659,500 (est. $1.5 million-$2.5 million).
According to Carol Vogel in the New York Times, seller of the Twombly was German dealer Karsten Greve, while British dealer Anthony d'Offay sold the Koons.
The sale set two auction records. Claes Oldenburg's Light Switches -- Hard Version (1964) sold for $692,500 (est. $500,000-$700,000), a record for a sculpture by the artist. And Blinky Palermo's blue and black Stoffbild, or cloth picture, from 1969 sold for $669,500 (est. $500,000-$700,000), a record for the artist.
Among the successful bidders in the room were dealer James Goodman, who bought Roy Lichtenstein's 1980 expressionist Head with Monocle for $669,500; New York art consultant Thea Westreich, who bought Frank Stella's Sacramental Mall Proposal #2 (1978) for $339,500; German collector Udo Brandhorst, who bought Georg Baselitz' 1970 Birke (Birch) for $273,600; Greek collector Dakis Joannou, who bought Maurizio Cattelan's collection of 50 paitned latex rubber masks, Spermini (1997), for $141,500; and British curator and consultant Max Wigram, who bought Cattelan's 1996 Super-Noi (Torino) drawing for $83,550.
As always, for complete, illustrated results, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.