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Bruce Nauman
Henry Moore Bound to Fail (back view)
at Christie's New York
May 17, 2001

Maurizio Cattelan
at Christie's
May 17, 2001

Jenny Saville
at Christie's
May 17

Elizabeth Peyton
David, Victoria + Brooklyn
at Christie's
May 17

Jean-Michel Basquiat
at Christie's
May 17
Art Market Watch
by Walter Robinson

Back in 1997, at the dawn of the current boom in contemporary art prices, the "new blue chips" were Matthew Barney, Rachel Whiteread and Kiki Smith [see "The New Blue Chips" by Judd Tully]. Now, after last night's contemporary art sale at Christie's New York in Rockefeller Center, you'd have to say that the new blue chips were Maurizio Cattelan, Thomas Demand, Chris Ofili and Jenny Saville.

Works by these and five other individual artists set new auction records in the May 17 sale at Christie's, which totaled $22,589,350 million for 43 lots sold of 51 offered (or 84 percent by lot). "It was a wonderful set of records, wonderful prices, wonderful bidding," said auctioneer Christopher Burge after the sale. "I had fun -- I hope you did!" Combined with the results of the previous night's May 16 sale of post-war art, the total is $63.8 million.

Auction records were set for:

* Bruce Nauman, whose Henry Moore Bound to Fail (back view) sold for $9,906,000 (with premium). The 1967 lot -- also the top lot of the sale -- is the original wax-and-plaster of what is considered a pivotal example of Nauman's earliest sculpture. The winning bid of $9 million -- three times the $3 million high estimate -- was met with applause, an auction-room rarity these days. Carol Vogel in the New York Times reported speculation at the sale that the buyer was Phyllis Wattis, a big patron of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

*Maurizio Cattelan, whose La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) (1999) sold for $886,000 (est. $400,000-$600,000). It is from an edition of two, and despite its sacrilegious subject matter -- Pope Paul II struck down by a meteor -- the auction house reported no untoward incidents or protests. (By the way, in Wednesday's Artnet News story about the piece, some careless idiot reported that the sculpture was selling at the other house rather than Christie's. He has been severely disciplined).

The sale included four works by Cattelan, including the Untitled red painting from 1996 that channels Zorro via Lucio Fontana. The Z-slashed canvas went for $116,000 to a telephone bidder (est. $40,000-$60,000).

* Cindy Sherman, whose Untitled Film Still #48 (1979) sold for $336,000 (est. $150,000-$200,000). The iconic Sherman work, an 8 x 10 inch black-and-white photo of a girl with a suitcase standing by the side of the road, is number 10 of an edition of 10.

* Gilbert & George, whose early Smash the Reds (1977) sold for $314,000 (est. $150,000-$250,000).

* Chris Ofili, whose x + y =0 (2000), a two-panel work portraying an African queen and a man with an Afro, sold for $237,000 (est. $150,000-$200,000).

* Jenny Saville, whose Interfacing (1992), a 48 x 40 inch portrait of a querulous and obese woman, sold for $198,500 (est. $70,000-$90,000). It's worth nothing that though this picture set an auction record, it is hardly a major work by the artist.

* William Kentridge, whose set of three Drawings for Projection Series: Johannesburg -- Second Greatest City after Paris Monument Mine Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old (1989-91), sold for $149,000 (est. $50,000-$70,000).

* Elizabeth Peyton, whose painting of British soccer star David Beckham, his wife Posh Spice and their baby Brooklyn, David, Victoria + Brooklyn (1999), sold for $198,500 (est. $80,000-$120,000). On a personal note, Artnet Magazine is pleased to see the record go to a portrait of the inspiration for our sometime Brooklyn column, Brooklyn Spice.

Another top lot was Jeff Koons' Woman in Tub (1988), which sold for $2,866,000 (est. $1.5 million-$2.5 million). The work, which is in an edition of three plus an artist's proof, sold last year at Christie's for "only" $1.7 million. Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled graffiti triptych from 1983, which the auction catalogue compares to Picasso's Les Demoiselles, sold for $974,000 (est. $400,000-$600,000). Vogel reported that the buyer may have been Peter Brant; to other observers the winning bidder seemed to be Cologne dealer Rafael Jablonka.

High prices were also garnered by a Donald Judd shelf sculpture ($633,000) and Eva Hesse's Untitled ("Kardon Glass Case"), which sold for $721,000. Perhaps the most elegant work in the sale, a twin pair of sheets of graph paper called "Untitled" (Double Bloodworks) (1982) by the late Felix Gonzalez-Torres, was bought by Amy Capellazzo, curator of the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, for an anonymous client.

As always, complete illustrated auction results can be had in's unique "hot auctions" listing.

WALTER ROBINSON is editor of Artnet Magazine.