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Art Market Watch
5/16/02


MARKET ACCELERATION AT SOTHEBY'S
Sotheby's evening auction of contemporary art on May 15, 2002, sold 51 of 60 lots, or 85 percent, for a total of $42,527,725 with premium -- and a buyer was found immediately after the sale for one of the passed lots, Robert Motherwell's abstract Iberia No. 4 (1958), according to Sotheby's contemporary specialist Laura Paulson. "Twenty-seven lots sold for above their high estimate, that's 52 percent," said Paulson. "It was a great evening for Warhol, Richter, younger artists.

Indeed, seven of the top ten lots were Warhol or Richter paintings -- and both Paulson and auctioneer Tobias Meyer noted an "acceleration in the market" in which prices for top artists hit new levels.

Gerhard Richter held the top two spots. His 180 Colors (1971) sold for $3,969,500 million (presale est. $2,000,000-$3,000,000; with premium) to a telephone bidder. The price is a jump of over $1 million from a $2.6 million price paid at Sotheby's London for a similar work from the same series some nine months ago.

Similarly, Richter's painting of a single Candle (1982) sold for $3,969,500 (est. $2.5 million-$3 million), while a Richter painting -- with three candles -- sold at Sotheby's one year ago for $5.4 million, the artist's auction record. As the specialists indicated after the sale, the price for Candle seems like an increase, proportionally speaking. The buyer this time was Manhattan dealer Lucy Mitchell-Innes.

The third highest-selling lot, Andy Warhol's Five Deaths (1963), went for $3,749,500 ($3,000,000-$4,000,000), above the previous "Death and Disaster" high of about $2.6 million paid for a Big Electric Chair at Christie's London in 1999 -- another instance of acceleration within micro-categories.

Warhol's Self-Portrait (1986) sold for $3,089,500 (est. $1,500,000-$2,000,000), his black acrylic silkscreened Four Jackies (1964) sold for $1,879,500 (est. $900,000-$1,200,000), the dynamic five-foot-square Superman (1981) on a green ground sold for $1,769,500 (est. $1,000,000-$1,500,000) and his 22-inch-square, red and black Self-Portrait (1966) sold for $1,769,500 (est. $600,000-$800,000).

The buyer of Superman was Los Angeles supercollector Eli Broad, whose collection, or parts thereof, is currently on view at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The current Richter retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art contributed to the price run-up in his works, Meyer said after the auction, and the traveling Warhol retro at the Tate Modern and the Los Angeles MOCA helped with the Warhol prices, as did the recently issued volume one of the Warhol catalogue raisonné, which helped collectors realize how few classic works are available.

Auction records were set for four artists: Richard Tuttle ($1,054,500), Adolph Gottlieb ($537,500), John Currin ($427,500) and Carl Andre ($559,500).

Maurizio Cattelan's Cheap to Feed (1997), a taxidermied white lapdog, sold for $163,500 (est. $80,000-$120,000). "Not that cheap," said Meyer from the podium.

The final lot of sale, Cecily Brown's large (ca. 6 x 8 ft.) orgiastic Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1997-98) sold for $95,600 (est. $100,000-$150,000) to the artist's dealer, Larry Gagosian, after the auctioneer only half-jokingly intoned "Please." Gagosian also was the winning bidder for another work by one of his artists that sold for beneath its low estimate, Cy Twombly's striking white resin sculpture, Untitled (Rome) (1977), which went for $320,000 (est. $350,000-$450,000; $361,500 with premium).

For illustrations and complete auction information, see Artnet's unique Fine Art Auction Results.

$5 MILLION BASQUIAT AT CHRISTIE'S
"It was fast and furious and I'm completely exhausted," said auctioneer Christopher Burge about the just-completed Christie's May 14 evening sale of contemporary art at its Rockefeller Center headquarters. Buyers snapped up 56 of the sale's 67 lots, or 84 percent, for a total of $46,937,950. An incredible 15 new auction records were set, and records were equaled for several other artists.

Top lot was Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1982 Profit I, a 13-foot-long haloed portrait of a voodoo warrior that Christie's says is considered the artist's "greatest masterpiece." It sold for $5 million at the hammer --$5,509,500 with premium -- at the top end of the optimistic presale estimate of $3,000,000-$5,000,000, to an anonymous phone bidder. The work was sold by Lars Ulrich, drummer of the fast-and-furious heavy metal rock band Metallica (Ulrich sold four other works in the sale, by CoBrA artists Karel Appel and Asger Jorn and by Jean Dubuffet and Sam Francis). Basquiat's previous auction record was $3.3 million, and that price had been called into question [see "Artnet News," 11/17/99]

Auction records were set for Donald Judd, when his 1967 Untitled horizontal set of six 34-inch cubic units of stainless steel and yellow Plexiglas sold to a telephone bidder for $4,629,500 (est. $3,000,000-$4,000,000), and Ed Ruscha, whose Talk about Space, a six-foot-square painting of the word "space" in yellow on a blue ground (with a life-size pencil painted at the bottom of the canvas), sold for $3,529,500 (est. $1,500,000-$2,000,000). The Judd was sold by Irving Blum, the retired art dealer who acquired the work from the artist around the time of his 1998 show at Blum's Los Angeles gallery.

Records were also set for Asger Jorn ($2,099,500), Louise Bourgeois ($1,439,500), Tom Wesselmann ($944,500), Robert Indiana ($614,500), Jenny Saville ($537,500), Rineke Dijkstra ($405,500), Julian Schnabel ($361,500), Thomas Struth ($317,500), Nan Goldin ($284,500), Cai Guo-Qiang ($229,500), Thomas Demand ($141,500) and Toba Khedoori ($65,725). It should be noted that the Dijkstra was a group of six (admittedly striking) photos of teens posing at the beach, and the Goldin was an undated set of 149 photos called Thanksgiving.

Andy Warhol's Four-foot Flowers (1964), which garnered fourth place when it sold for $3,749,500 (est. $1,800,000-$2,200,000), has a curious provenance. The artist gave it to Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein, who then donated it to the Guggenheim Museum, whereupon the painting passed through the hands of New York dealer Ronald Feldman and was anonymously sold to the current consignor at Christie's London in 1998.

Among the bidders spotted in the overflow audience was art consultant Kim Heirston, who won Indiana's record-setting silver stainless steel Love sculpture (one of an edition of six), Damien Hirst's gray dot painting, Strong Potassium Chloride Solution for $251,500, and Ellen Gallagher's 1995 Wild Kingdom, a yellow painting covered with rows of tiny lip shapes, for $113,525.

Chicago and New York dealer Richard Gray was the buyer of the second most expensive lot, Jean Dubuffet's Paris Montparnasse (1961), for $4,739,500 (est. $2,500,000-$3,500,000), and his gallery colleague Andrew Fabrikant won Gerhard Richter's bright Abstraktes Bild (1987) for $1,329,500 (est. $600,000-$800,000).

New York dealer Larry Gagosian was the winning bidder for Richard Serra's elemental Plate, Pole, Prop (1969-83) for $399,500 (est. $500,000-$700,000) and for Damien Hirst's spin painting, Beautiful Ejaculating in Underpants (1998) for $141,500 (est. $120,000-$180,000). Gagosian was underbidder on the record-setting Saville, a striking five-foot-square portrait of a dazed-looking young woman done with an excessive amount of bright red paint.

Miami photo collector Marty Margulies was the buyer of the Demand, a ca. 72 x 106 in. Wall (Mural) of a map of the world, a photo-fabrication work dating from 1999 and done in an edition of six.

Maurizio Cattelan's Untitled (Gerard) (1999), a life-size plastic dummy wrapped in a brown blanket and posed like a slumped-over homeless man, was sold without reserve to benefit the Doe Fund, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping the homeless. After a hesitant start, the bidding climbed to $280,000 ($317,500 with premium), just under its presale high estimate of $300,000.

Among the passed lots were a black-and-white photo by Cindy Sherman, a sculpture of two putti by Jeff Koons, an early cell painting by Peter Halley and a 1978 double spectrum square by Frank Stella.

For illustrations and complete auction information, see Artnet's unique Fine Art Auction Results.

$30 MILLION AT PHILLIPS CONTEMPORARY
Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg held its evening contemporary art sale at its 57th Street showroom in New York on Monday, May 13, 2002, and recorded total sales approaching $30 million, setting eight new auction records. In all, 46 of 53 works sold, for an 87 percent rate -- though many lots had been guaranteed by the auction house, which affects the total.

The sale got off to a lackluster start, when a set of 14 Marcel Duchamp readymade multiples issued by the artist and Arturo Schwartz in 1968, brought a relatively modest $5.4 million overall, below the presale low estimate of $8.5 million and considerably less than the $15 million Schwartz had sought for the group from private buyers, according to a report by Carol Vogel in the New York Times. The prices were impressive -- as bargains -- all the same, with a bulb of Paris Air selling for $167,500, a Hat Rack for $288,500, a Fountain for $1,185,000 and a Bicycle Wheel for $1,762,500, the top price of the bunch.

Top lot at the auction was Francis Bacon's six-foot-tall Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (1964), based on a 1963 photo by John Deakin, which sold for $6,712,500 (est. $5,000,000-$7,000,000). Andy Warhol's pink-toned fright-wig Self-Portrait (1986) sold for $3,192,500 (est. $3,000,000-$4,000,000), reportedly to supercollector Peter Brant. A six-foot-square blue canvas with the word "Noise" painted across it by Ed Ruscha sold for $2,532,500 (est. $1,000,000-$1,500,000), setting a new auction record for the artist. It was consigned by Greek art collector Dakis Joannou.

Making their auction debut were works by Neo Rauch, whose Iron Curtain surrealist oil on linen Produktion (1998) sold for $134,500 (est. $60,000-$80,000), and the British team of Tim Noble and Sue Webster, whose lighted sign spelling out "Forever" sold for $145,500 (est. $25,000-$35,000). David Hammons African-American Flag (1990, in an edition of five), Old Glory done in red and green with black stars, sold for $40,250 (est. $40,000-$60,000).



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