|Magazine Home | News | Features | Reviews | Books | People | Horoscope|
|Art Market Watch
NOISY SALE AT PHILLIPS|
The art trade took a skeptical attitude toward the evening contemporary sale at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg on Nov. 13, 2003, but showed up all the same, filling Phillips' bare-bones auction room -- concrete floors, no turntable -- with roisterous, even frenetic bidding. In the end, auctioneer Simon de Pury sold 48 of 55 lots offered, or 89 percent, for a total of $11,007,750. The sum includes the buyer's premium, which at Phillips is somewhat less than at the two major houses -- 19.5 percent of the first $100,000 and 10 percent of the remainder.
Needless to say, success is a matter of degree. The total for Phillips' entire sale was less than the price paid for the top lot at Sotheby's the night before, Willem de Kooning's Spike's Folly I (1959), which went for $11.2 million. Still, Phillips contemporary department head Michael McGinnis said he was "thrilled," and noted that the energy in the market came from a new generation of 40-something buyers. "They're quite bullish," he said.
Phillips sold only a single lot for over $1 million, and that was Damien Hirst's Something Solid Beneath the Surface of All Creatures Great and Small (2001), a 12-foot-long, four-foot-wide all-glass display case containing some 25 animal skeletons. It sold for $1,164,500 (est. $800,000-$1,200,000), an auction record for the artist, despite de Pury's announcement that seven of the skeletons were from endangered species, and had been held up at U.S. Customs. "It's all just a formality," he claimed. The buyer was a representative of the Broad Art Foundation.
Several top lots sold for well above their high estimates. Richard Prince's Untitled (Cowboy) from 1999, a unique, eight-foot-tall color photo of a Stetson-wearing Marlborough Man seen from above, sold for $460,500. The price was well above its presale high estimate of $120,000, and came after a dramatic battle between a phone bidder in front and an art dealer on a cell phone in the back of the room. The price is a new auction record for the artist.
Richard Prince's provocative Spiritual America, the artist's 1983 copy (in an edition of 10) of photographer Gary Gross' controversial photo of a nude, 10-year-old Brooke Shields posing seductively in a bath, also surpassed expectations, selling to a phone bidder for $372,500 (est. $200,000-$300,000).
Luc Tuymans' Within (2001), a ca. 7 x 8 ft. gray-toned painting of a kind of fence, sold for $427,500, above the high presale estimate of $200,000 -- a new auction record for the artist. And Christopher Wool's untitled enamel-on-aluminum word painting from 1990 (it reads "NO NO") sold for $416,500 (est. $200,000-$300,000).
According to de Pury, the house makes a point of introducing younger artists into its evening sales, and the strategy paid off -- or at least, it resulted in still more records. Auction benchmarks were set for Daniel Richter ($240,500), Tim Noble and Sue Webster ($218,500), Pierre et Gilles ($196,500), Jorge Pardo ($119,500), Ugo Rondinone ($107,550), Wim Delvoye ($89,625) and Thomas Hirschhorn ($35,850).
Eight of the lots, including the Hirst, the Prince Cowboy and the Rondinone, came from the Pisces Trust, an investment collection that was formed by de Pury and Luxembourg and exhibited since mid-2002 at the Frstenberg castle in the German town of Donaueschingen before being brought to auction.
For complete illustrated sales results, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.
WILD DAYS IN CONTEMPORARY|
The grab-bag day sales of contemporary art at Christie's (Nov. 12) and Sotheby's (Nov. 13) were just as wild as the smaller, blue-chip evening sales.
Christie's began in the morning with the rest of the Dorothy C. Miller collection, selling 147 of 155 lots, or 95 percent, for a total of $1,666,678. The Miller pedigree -- she was a pioneering curator at the Museum of Modern Art -- sent many of the top lots way above their presale estimates. Egon Schiele's Kneeling Nude Girl (1918) sold for $164,300 (est. $40,000-$60,000), Morris Graves' Bird Singing in the Moonlight (ca. 1938-39) went for $141,900 (est. $20,000-$30,000) and Walker Evans' Farmer's Kitchen, Hale County, Alabama (1936) sold for $77,675 (est. $30,000-$40,000). Alexander Calder's custom-made DM initial pin, which was estimated to sell for $6,000-$8,000, soared to $52,580.
Next up was Christie's morning session proper, which logged a total of $14,512,918, with 102 of 126 lots finding buyers, or 81 percent. The buying enthusiasm began with the very first lot -- a classic Adolph Gottlieb "planet and sun" painting from 1965 that sold for $164,300, about double its presale high estimate of $80,000. The session set a new world auction record for John Chamberlain, when his dramatic black-painted steel abstraction, Murmurous Moto, Maestro (1991) sold for $567,500 (est. $150,000-$200,000).
Super prices were frequent throughout the sale. Wayne Thiebaud's tiny (10 x 14 in.) Five Eating Figures (1963), a lushly painted picture of strolling beachgoers, sold for $410,700 (est. $240,000-$320,000). A posthumous black-painted aluminum cast (in an edition of six) of Tony Smith's emblematic Tau (1965) went for $141,900, well above its presale high estimate of $80,000. And Mel Ramos' atypical Black Hawk (1962), a small (30 x 26 in.) portrait of a comic-book aviator, sold for $164,300 (est. $60,000-$80,000).
Christie's afternoon session totaled $8,573,556, with 112 of 136 lots finding buyers, or 82 percent. Jim Hodges' delicate network of spider webs made of metal chains, Trembling & Joy (1994), sold for $192,300, more than quadruple the $45,000 presale high estimate and a new auction record for the artist. A record was set as well for Francis Als when his untitled 1996 set of seven paintings of a man sitting at a desk sold for $186,700 (est. $40,000-$60,000). And new auction records were set for Verne Dawson ($47,800), Barry McGee ($113,525), Lisa Ruyter ($33,460) and Robert Colescott ($26,290).
Two paintings by Malcolm Morley sold for well above their estimates: the mural-sized (80 x 164 in.) Farewell to Crete (1984) sold for $343,500 (est. $120,000-$160,000) and the classic ocean-liner picture, Remembrance of Things Past (1976) went for $158,700 (est. $80,000-$100,000).
Christie's total for its fall 2003 post-war and contemporary sales was $85,094,174. Overall, the house's fall total for Impressionist, modern and contemporary art was $223,449,034.
Up at Sotheby's on Nov. 13, the contemporary art part II sales totaled $23,579,600, with 348 of 416 lots offered finding buyers, or almost 84 percent. A new auction record was set on Nov. 11 for Lee Krasner, and her high-impact 1953 oil on masonite and collage work, The City (1953), did exceptionally well in the day sale, selling for $572,200, well above its $180,000 presale high estimate. Krasner's bright color abstraction from 1971, Majuscule, sold for $254,400 (est. $80,000-$120,000).
Kenneth Noland's Bess, a classic 1962 target painting from the Vera G. List estate, sold for $366,400, well above its $150,000 presale high estimate. A large work by Robert Rauschenberg from his "Shiner" series, Braggard (1988), which includes a crushed shopping cart attached to its 8 x 8 ft. aluminum surface, sold for $265,600, well above its $150,000 presale high estimate. And John de Andrea's painted fiberglass Photo-Realist sculpture of two nude young women from 1971 sold for $51,000 (est. $20,000-$30,000).
In the afternoon session at Sotheby's, Barbara Kruger's large (99 x 88 in.) black-and-white photograph, Money Can Buy You Love (1985), sold for $108,000, well above its high presale estimate of $60,000. Bringing the War Home -- House Beautiful (1967-72), a set of 10 photographs by the political artist Martha Rosler in which she collaged images of Vietnamese refugees into glossy magazine spreads of luxurious American interiors, sold for $39,000 ($12,000-$18,000), a new auction record for the artist.
An Ugo Rondinone target painting, No. 174 (2000), sold for $102,000 (est. $60,000-$80,000), a new high for a work of this type by the artist. A 80 x 30 in. oil on wood text painting by Glenn Ligon, Walt Whitman #1 (1991), sold for $87,000, a new auction record for the artist. Cady Noland's eccentric Chainsaw Cut Cowboy Head with Car Lock (1990) soared above its $15,000 presale high estimate to sell for $66,000.
Sotheby's total for two days of sales of contemporary art is $98,144,000.
NEW COLLECTORS AT SOTHEBY'S CONTEMPORARY|
"We saw a new group of younger collectors participating," said Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer after the evening sale of contemporary art at Sotheby's New York on Nov. 12, 2003. "And they were aggressive when they wanted something." The auction total was $74,564,400 (with premium), well above the presale low estimate of $66 million and the second highest total of any contemporary sale at Sotheby's since 1989. The figure was also about $12 million more than Christie's total from the night before (see below) and, as Meyer pointed out, rather better than the disastrous $27 million total that Sotheby's scored in its contemporary sale last May.
Of the 68 lots offered, 55 sold, or almost 81 percent -- with most of the passed lots falling in the last third of what clearly was a long sale. As Sotheby's contemporary co-chairman Matthew Carey-Williams noted, the auction included 19 lots that sold for over $1 million and 10 that sold for over $2 million. "Tonight was a fantastic success" with "tremendous depth in the bidding," said Meyer. "It was at times hard to keep up. And it was one of the most profitable sales we've ever had."
Top lot was Willem de Kooning's large yellow and brown abstraction Spike's Folly I (1959), which had been acquired by legendary collectors Robert and Ethyl Scull from the Sidney Janis Gallery and was later sold to its anonymous consignor, reportedly billionaire art collector Mitchell Rales, by C&M Arts. This time around, the painting sold for $11,208,000, just above its low presale estimate of $10,000,000 -- apparently, according to observers in the room, to Robert Mnuchin of C&M Arts.
The second highest price was garnered by Mark Rothko's No. 8 (White Stripe), a glowing, rose-colored composition from 1958. It sold for $8,856,000, just below its low presale estimate, to Douglas Baxter of PaceWildenstein. The third highest price in the auction was $4,600,000, well above the presale high estimate of $3,500,000, paid by an anonymous telephone bidder for Jean-Michel Basquiat's large Untitled (Two Heads on, Gold) from 1982.
New auction records were set for Agnes Martin ($2,584,000), Brice Marden ($2,472,000), Susan Rothenberg ($1,016,000), Hans Hofmann ($1,105,600) and Lee Bontecou ($456,000). The Bontecou record had just sextupled to $298,700 the night before at Christie's. A Roy Lichtenstein Ben-Day sculpture of a bust of a blonde, cast in 1996 in an edition of six, sold for $2,136,000, a new auction high for a sculpture by the artist. Five bidders competed for the work, Woman: Sunlight, Moonlight, which depicts a swooning beauty in bright yellow and red on one side (the sunlight) and moody blue and black on the other (the moonlight).
Several bidders also battled it out for David Smith's green-patinaed bronze Walking Dida (1959), which was purchased by its owner, Grace Vogel Aldworth, directly from the artist. A phone bidder won the work for $1,464,000, over a presale high estimate of $650,000.
Three bidders took a sparkling Morris Louis poured-acrylic stripe painting, Alphard (1961), up in $20,000 increments past its presale high estimate of $300,000 to a hammer price of $520,000 ($590,400 with buyer's premium).
Other lots that performed particularly well included both Martin Puryear sculptures from the Vera G. List estate. Amulet (1985), a lyrical pine and wood wall piece that originally sold in a benefit auction for the New Museum, brought $568,000, well above a presale high estimate of $350,000. Puryear's more massive, untitled tar-covered floor sculpture from 1987 sold for $590,400, above a presale high estimate of $450,000.
Among the newer market faves, Takashi Murakami continues to do well. His painting of blue Gucci-patterned toadstools on a gold ground, Nega Mushroom (2000), sold for $500,800 (est. $150,000-$200,000). Also doing well was Andreas Gursky, whose chibachrome print of the Chicago, Board of Trade (1997), produced in an edition of six, sold for $478,400 (est. $250,000-$350,000).
The sale contained five lots by Warhol -- Warhol collector Peter Brant was said to be the anonymous consignor of some of them, which included an 18-foot-wide green and bronze-toned Oxidation Painting from 1978 last exhibited in "Super Warhol" at Monaco's Grimaldi Forum. It sold to a telephone bidder for $2,248,000, in the middle of its presale estimate.
David Hockney's Portrait of Nick Wilder (1966), a widely exhibited canvas of the late art dealer in his pool that has become emblematic of the California art lifestyle, sold for $2,360,000. Someone lost more than $500,000 on the transaction -- the painting had sold just a year ago at Christie's New York for $2,869,500, the artist's auction record.
Active buyers in the room included Larry Gagosian, who won both the Lichtenstein sculpture and the Bontecou, and Cologne dealer Raphael Jablonka, who bought a large Warhol black-and-white Details of the Last Supper (1986) for $2,248,000 as well as works by Eric Fischl ($243,200) and John Chamberlain ($220,800). Manhattan dealer Edward Tyler Nahem, sitting in the front row, won Gerhard Richter's Two Candles from 1983 for $3,816,000 (est. $2,500,000-$3,500,000). And German collector Udo Brandhorst successfully bid for Edward Ruscha's large Boss painting from 1964, winning it for $1,912,000 (est. $1,800,000-$2,200,000).
For complete illustrated sales results, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.
MONEY SURGE FOR CONTEMPORARY AT CHRISTIE'S
The heat is definitely on again in the contemporary art market. The evening sale of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's New York on Nov. 11, 2003, totaled $62,007,700 (including the buyer's premium), with bidders snapping up 57 of 68 lots, or 84 percent, in a long, two-hour auction. "I'm exhausted, there was so much bidding," joked auctioneer Christopher Burge after the sale. Eighteen lots sold for over $1 million, Burge said, and 35 lots sold for above their presale estimate.
The market surge is largely an American affair. According to the auction house, 77 percent of the buyers were North American, with 21 percent hailing from Europe and only two percent from Asia.
New world auction records were set for nine artists. Alexander Calder's untitled red stabile from 1968 sold for $5,831,500 (est. $4,000,000-$5,000,000) to an unnamed "private institution." A small (ca. 35 x 31 in.) but elegant Clyfford Still painting from the estate of poet John Stephan, who founded the avant-garde art journal The Tyger's Eye in 1947, sold for $1,911,500 (est. $1,200,000-$1,600,000). According to the Baer Faxt, the buyer was Stavros Merjos, a television commercial and rock-video producer who once dated Pamela Anderson.
Works by women artists did particularly well in the sale. Lee Krasner's mural-sized abstraction from 1960, Celebration, sold for a record $1,911,500 (est. $300,000-$400,000). The previous Krasner auction record was a measly $198,400. Buyer was the richly endowed Cleveland Museum of Art, which must have been a determined bidder -- it emailed news of its acquisition to reporters at 8:37 pm, well before the end of the sale.
A 1989 "joke" painting by Richard Prince -- "I wasn't smoking in bed, it was on fire when I laid down" -- sold for a record $365,900 (est. $120,000-$180,000) to New York dealer Stellan Holm. An untitled 1968 construction by Lee Bontecou from the Dorothy Miller estate -- the 72-year-old Bontecou has, of course, recently emerged from a long semi-retirement to collaborate on a major retrospective, now at the UCLA Hammer Museum -- sold for a record $298,700 (est. $50,000-$70,000) to an anonymous telephone bidder. Bontecou's previous auction record was $46,000.
New records were also set for Joan Mitchell ($903,500), Takashi Murakami ($623,500), Marlene Dumas ($332,300) and Yoshitomo Nara ($130,700).
The Dorothy Miller pedigree -- she was a pioneering curator at the Museum of Modern Art -- counted for much, as the impressive collection of 10 Miller lots in the early part of the sale was 100 percent sold for a total of just under $10 million, close to the presale high estimate of $10.7 million (the auction house had given Miller's heirs an undisclosed overall guarantee). Superdealer David Nahmad bought the two Alexander Calder lots, Andrew Fabrikant of the Richard Gray Gallery bought Jasper Johns' 1957 Gray Numbers painting for $5,271,500 (est. $5 million-$7 million) and Adrian Turner of Matthew Marks Gallery won the Johns drawing, Litanies of the Chariot, a 1961 transcription of notes from Marcel Duchamp's Green Box, for $298,700 (est. $120,000-$180,000).
Other buyers in the room included SoHo dealer Jeffrey Deitch, who won the record-setting Dumas painting of a pensive young man, Wet Dreams (1987), for $332,300 (est. $120,000-$160,000), and Chelsea dealer Perry Rubenstein, who bought Andreas Gursky's Minimalist manqu photograph of empty shelves in a Prada store, Prada II, for $298,700 (est. $200,000-$300,000). Rubenstein is in good company; other owners of the 65 x 124 in. photo, which is printed in an edition of six, include the Museum of Modern Art.
French Impressionist and modern dealer Marc Blondeau bought Bruce Nauman's dramatic steel sculpture from 1978, Untitled (Wheels and Suspended Double Pyramid), for $959,500, well above its presale high estimate of $450,000. Real estate developer Aby Rosen bought Tom Wesselmann's emblematic cutout, Smoker #6 (1967-69), for $552,700 (est. $300,000-$400,000), and according to the Baer Faxt, Guggenheim trustree Mortimer Sackler bought Matthew Barney's triptych of color photos from Cremaster 2, for $186,700 (est. $120,000-$180,000).
The top lot in the sale was a classic Mark Rothko painting from 1963, an untitled composition in red, black and brown, which soared above its presale high estimate of $6,000,000 to sell for $7,175,500. Other top lots included Willem de Kooning's large-scale 1984 abstraction Untitled XVII, which went for $3,703,500, well above its $2,000,000 presale estimate, and Franz Kline's classic abstraction Rue (1959), once owned by Steve Martin, which sold for $2,247,500, below its presale low estimate of $3,500,000.
For complete illustrated sales results, see Artnet's signature Fine Art Auctions Report.