CONTEMPORARY PRICES SOAR AT LONDON AUCTIONS
June 27 was a busy day for contemporary art collectors in London, with Christie's holding its contemporary sale at 2 p.m. and Sotheby's taking its turn that evening at 7 p.m.
By the numbers, Christie's results are rather grim -- only 63 of 116 lots, or 54 percent, sold for a total of £2,858,475 ($1 = £1.42]. But the auction featured more new works by younger artists than ever before, thus accounting for a certain caution among the bidders. Among the bought-in lots were pieces by Keith Coventry, Thomas Grünfeld, Micha Klein, Michael Landy, Langlands & Bell, Brad Lochore, Alain Miller, Yue Minjun, Steve Pippin and Tomoko Takahashi, as well as works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hanne Darboven, Donald Judd, Mike Kelley, Nam June Paik, Mimmo Paladino, Julian Schnabel and Andres Serrano.
The top lots, however, soared in price, as if the pent-up demand had concentrated solely on those select works. Maurizio Cattelan's The Ballad of Trotsky (1996), a stuffed horse suspended in a harness from the ceiling, sold for £619,750 (est. £300,000-£400,000). (The auction house called the work "a potent image of impotence," relating it to Trotsky's thwarted revolutionary ideals; more salacious observers, however, suggested that Trotsky hoped to crush the Tsarist regime just a Catherine the Great was supposedly crushed by a horse in a bizarre sex act.) The Cattelan auction record of $886,000 was set last month in New York at the sale of The Ninth Hour (1999), his sculpture of the Pope struck down by a meteorite. Buyer of Trotsky was Philippe Ségalot, a special assistant to Christie's owner François Pinault, according to a report by Roger Bevan in the Baer Faxt.
The number two price was £333,750 paid for Jenny Saville's towering seven-foot-tall female nude, Branded (1992), almost three times the high presale estimate of £120,000 and a new record for the artist. Needless to say, Saville's prices are skyrocketing. A smaller canvas sold in New York last month for less than half as much, and a work from the same series sold in 1998 for £51,000.
Other top prices paid at Christie's were £157,650 for Andreas Gursky's Taipei (1998) (est. £80,000-£120,000), £113,750 for Chris Ofili's Flower Heads (1996) (est. £80,000-£100,000) and £113,750 for the same artist's Blind Popcorn (1996) (est. £70,000-£80,000), and £102,750 for Barry Flanagan's Elephant with Tusks and Nijinski Hare (est. £80,000-£120,000).
Sotheby's did rather better with its contemporary art sale, when 39 of 58 lots -- 67 percent -- sold for a total of £11,780,540. "Our highest in 10 years," said Cheyenne Westphal, head of contemporary art for Sotheby's Europe.
Top lot was Gerhard Richter's 180 Colors (1971), a "color chart" painting that was exhibited at Documenta in 1972. It was knocked down for £1,818,500 (est. £600,000-£800,000). A tiny (24 x 28 in.) pink electric chair from 1964 by Andy Warhol sold for £1,653,500 (est. £400,000-£600,000). A second Warhol, a gold, 20 x 16 in. Jackie (1964), sold for £487,500 (est. £80,000-£120,000). Both Warhols established "new bench-marks" for their respective series, according to Westphal. A six-and-a-half-foot-square painting of a canoe full of Niger oarsmen by Miguel Barceló, Kulu be ba kan (1991), went for £718,500 (est. £180,000-£250,000), an auction record for the artist.
Other good prices came for Cattelan's collection of 25 self-portrait masks hung on the wall, called Spermini, which sold for £55,700; Rachel Whiteread's plaster-cast Untitled (Shelf) from 1997, which went for £86,000; and Jake and Dinos Chapman's Island of Dr. Moron, a bucolic scene of a four-headed blond girl with three saplings, selling for £29,250.
COUNTDOWN TO FIAC 2001
Mark your calendar -- FIAC 2001 is set for Oct. 10-15, 2001, at the Porte de Versailles in Paris. The 28th annual modern and contemporary art fair brings together 160 international art galleries from 44 cities in 16 countries. Unlike last year, when exhibitors were encouraged to mount solo shows in their booths, FIAC 2001 features either solo shows, group shows or exhibits of prints, plus "Perspectives," an exhibition of one-person shows by 14 emerging artists (to be announced). Fair visitors can also partake of lectures, panels, galas, and exclusive viewings of private Parisian collections. See www.fiac-online.com for more info.
TALKING SCULPTURE IN QUEENS
The Queens Museum of Art is hosting a series of six lectures, "Embracing the World: Sculpture's 20th Century Expansion into Installation Art," presented by Queens College professor and sometime Artnet Magazine correspondent Suzaan Boettger. The series, which began June 26, 2001 with "Breaking Open the Classical Idea of Sculpture as a Self-contained Object," follows sculpture from the Renaissance through Futurism, Dada, Pop, Minimalism, and Performance Art. Next up is "The Romance of Industrialization and its Repudiation" on July 10, followed by "The Merging of Fine Art with Mass and Folk Firms" on July 17, "Pop and Anti-Form" on July 24, "Installations" on July 31, and "The Present Moment" on August 7. Sessions take place at 6:30 and cost $5.
DIRECTOR FOR SCOTTSDALE Susan Krane, director of the University of Colorado Art Galleries in Boulder, has been named director of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.