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by Meredith Mendelsohn
|Christie's evening auction of contemporary art in New York on May 16 was a heated contest between American and German artists, with the British contingent largely absent. New auction records were set for 15 artists, including Americans Eric Fischl ($996,000), Charles Ray ($886,000), Janine Antoni ($204,000), John Currin ($149,000), James Turrell ($116,000), Tony Oursler ($72,850) and Louise Lawler ($56,400). What's more, works by Andreas Serrano, Mike Kelley and Matthew Barney all soared way beyond their high estimates.
German artists saw several new records, too, including Sigmar Polke ($1,656,000), Thomas Struth ($270,000) and Stephan Balkenhol ($121,500). Gerhard Richter's 1983 painting of a skull, Schaedel (545-3), inspired some of the hottest bidding of the evening, finally going for $1.4 million, more than twice its high estimate of $600,000. Among the other records were $110,500 for a Luc Tuymans painting, $30,550 for an Ettore Sottsass table and $76,375 for a portfolio of 27 photos by Christopher Williams.
The sale -- featuring 55 works dating from 1970 to the present -- totaled $14.5 million, just over its high estimate of $14.1 million. Only five works went unsold, and an impressive 31 lots went for above their presale estimates. The salesroom, buzzing with energy, seemed to overflow with bidders. "It was hard work, spotting bids," joked auctioneer Christopher Burge. "It was like a tennis court, with balls coming from every direction."
Auction-house staples Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat each had several works on offer. Overall, they fared well, but didn't quite elicit the bidding frenzies witnessed with other artists. The one exception was Koons' sexy ceramic Woman in Tub (1988), which at $1.7 million was the top lot in the sale. His famed tank of three suspended basketballs went unsold, as did one of two Warhol oxidation paintings on offer. Basquiat's paintings all sold within their estimates.
For a complete, illustrated listing of the sale results, check out Artnet's trademark Fine Art Auctions Report.
MEREDITH MENDELSOHN is associate editor of Artnet Magazine.