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Le Rêve, 1932
Corpse and Mirror,1974 (detail)
Unfinished, Untitled, or Not Yet, 1966
Golden Section Painting: Parallelogram and Diamond, 1974
ganz sale results
by Walter Robinson
Six years of American corporate re-engineering seems to have shifted art-market power back to the good ol' USA. Almost two-thirds of the 58 lots in last night's sale of the Victor and Sally Ganz Collection, which totaled $206.5 million, went to U.S. buyers, with 23 percent going to Europe, nine percent to Asia and five percent to "other."
The atmosphere in the auction room at the beginning of the sale was at a near-delirious pitch, as the first seven lots all went for at least double their high estimates. The pace subsequently slowed, with auctioneer Christopher Burge taking the time to squeeze every last dollar out of the audience. A new technological wrinkle -- dealers in the audience on cell phones to their clients -- also slowed the pace, as Burge was careful to accomodate them.
Thirteen works sold for over $1 million. Top lot was Picasso's Le reve (1932), which was knocked down for $48.4 million. That's more than double the 1995 sale price of Le Miroir, a painting of the same size, date and subject (Picasso's mistress, Marie-Thérèse), which went for $20 million. The record price for Picasso is $51.7 million, set at Binoche et Godeau in 1989.
Other big prices for Picasso included $31.9 million for the colorful Les Femmes d'Alger (Version "O") (1955), which went to London dealer Libby Howie (according to the New York Times). Picasso's Femme assise... (1913) went for $24.8 million, an auction record for a Cubist painting. And Picasso's Nu Couché (1942), a gloomy Cubist portrait of Dora Maar -- a beautiful but tough picture -- went for $14.5 million.
Two of the top ten prices were earned by Jasper Johns. His Corpse and Mirror (1974), a severe black-and-white crosshatch painting, went for $8.36 million to dealers Lucy Mitchell-Innes and David Nash. Johns' White Numbers (1959) sold for $7.9 million. Owners of Johns cross-hatch prints were notable beneficiaries of the sale, as the three such lots in the auction all went for more than double their high estimates. The top lot in prints was $370,000 paid for a set of six screenprints of Johns' Cicada (1979-81).
Robert Rauschenberg's early Red Interior (1954-55) went for $6.3 million, and Frank Stella's Turkish Mambo (1959-60), which in the auction room looked flatter and deader than probably even the artist intended, sold for $3.96 million. Only one work in the sale was unsold, Rauschenberg's Rigger (1961).
Eva Hesse also made a strong showing, as expected. Her Unfinished, Untitled, or Not Yet (1966), a group of nine sand-filled orbs hanging in fishnet bags, went for $2.2 million, setting a new auction record for the artist. The work is slated for an American museum, according to Christie's, but we're not told which one.
The Conceptual Art included in the sale, anomalously, did particularly well. Do you own a number grid by Mel Bochner, or a drawing by Robert Smithson? It's worth two or three times what it used to be. The sale began with a bang, as Bochner's Three Sets: Rotated Center (1966) -- done in ball point pen and colored pencil on graph paper -- soared to $25,300 over a presale high estimate of $6,000. Smithson's Spiral Film Plan for Island of Broken Glass (1969) sold for $26,200, over a high estimate of $15,000.
Auction records were also set for Richard Tuttle, whose Blue Pole (1965) sold for $266,500 -- almost three times its presale high estimate -- and Dorothea Rockburne, whose Golden Section Painting: Parallelogram and Diamond (1974) went for $58,000.
The sole Brice Marden in the collection was Untitled (1964-67), a sheet of paper blackened with graphite and ink and scored with a grid of folds that the Ganzes hung with their black-and-white Conceptual Art rather than with their abstract paintings. The third lot in the sale, it was knocked down for an impressive $600,500, more than double its presale high estimate of $160,000. Marden told us that though the Ganzes only bought one of his works, while on a studio visit they had selected a new kitten from their cat's litter.
Prices listed below do not include the auction house commission, which is 15 percent of the first $50,000 and 10 percent of the rest.