$25 Million at Phillips Contemporary
You know youre losing your sense of proportion when the auctioneer can do $25 million worth of business in two hours and the whole thing seems a little ho-hum. The contemporary art sale at Phillips, de Pury & Co. on the evening of Nov. 11, 2004, sold 54 of 58 lots, or 93 percent, for a total of $25,584,000. "A generation of artists is graduating to a new mature level," said Phillips expert Michael McGinnis. "It looks like theyre here to stay." Still, many of the works on the block were distinctly run-of-the-mill.
The sale did feature several star lots, notably Maurizio Catellans The Ninth Hour (1999), the famous lifesize wax statue of Pope John Paul felled by a large meteorite, a work that sold at ChristiesNew York in 2001 for $886,000. This controversial sculpture, which was on display in the front of Phillips small salesroom, provided the occasion to cover Phillips acoustically unfriendly concrete floor with red carpet, which is part of the piece.
Auctioneer Simon de Pury opened the bidding at $800,000; at $2 million SoHo dealer Jeffrey Deitch entered the fray, battling it out with a telephone bidder until the total reached $2.7 million, at which point Deitch dropped out, stony-faced. The final result (with premium) was $3,032,000 (est. $1,500,000-$2,000,000), a new auction record for the artist.
Art-collector appetite for works by Cattelan is clearly far from sated. Other lots in the sale included a white neon sign of the artists signature -- misspelled, with an extra "t", so as to resemble the crucifixion -- that sold for $232,000 (est. $150,000-$200,000) (the work exists in four examples) and Lullaby (1994), a pair of wooden pallets piled with bags containing rubble from a terrorist bombing near the Padiglione dArt Contemporanea in Milan, that went for $187,200 (est. $180,000-$250,000). Can a figure of Yasser Arafat be in the wings?
Prices given here include the auction-house premium, which at Phillips is 20 percent on the first $100,000 and 12 percent on the remainder.
Another star lot was Tom Friedmans untitled agglomeration of wooden cocktail sticks assembled into the vague shape of a man. The delicate work, made in 2001, sold for $310,400 (est. $100,000-$150,000), well above the artists previous auction record of $88,125, set in 2000 for his life-size sculpture of a fly.
The action perked up a bit when a small, stainless-steel sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled Jim Beam - Model A Ford Pick-up Truck (1986) -- a cast of a commercial "gift edition" bottle of bourbon, complete with the liquor, produced in an edition of three with one artists proof -- was brought out by one of Phillips uniformed art handlers, cradled like a treasure in his gloved hands (the cut-rate auction house has no actual turntable to present its lots). After opening at $100,000, the bidding ping-ponged all over the room in $10,000 increments, with the lot finally selling to a phone bidder for $489,600 (est. $100,000-$150,000).
At the post-sale press conference, de Pury noted that Phillips has been introducing newer, younger artists to the auction market. This time, the newcomers were Chen Zhen, whose Lands-Objectscape (1994), six glass cases filled with rubble and industrial detritus that was originally exhibited at Bernier Gallery in Athens, sold for $102,000 (est. $60,000-$80,000), and Dirk Skreber, whose untitled "Flood Painting" from 2000 sold for $74,400 (est. $30,000-$50,000). The buyer of the Skreber was Manhattan dealer Neal Meltzer, according to observers in the room.
Another winning bidder was Chelsea dealer David Zwirner, who paid $290,200 for Paul McCarthys witty Rear View (1991-94), a formless plaster cast of an ass that the viewer can peer into through the asshole to see a plastic model of an alpine village -- a take-off on Marcel Duchamps famous Etant Donns in the Philadelphia Museum. The price is a new auction record for the artist.
Other buyers included jewelry dealer Lawrence Graff, who snatched up Francis Bacons Oedipus (1979) for $3,592,000 (est. $4,000,000-$6,000,000); superdealer Larry Gagosian, who purchased Andy Warhols large, pale blue Self-Portrait (1986) for $3,144,000 (est. $2,500,000-$3,500,000); dealer Eleanor Acquavella, who won Martin Kippenbergers Terrorist/Tourist diptych from 1997 for $612,800 (est. $200,000-$300,000); and French dealer Enrico Navarra, who bought Keith Harings untitled mural-sized red and yellow drawing from 1982, featuring a giant heart set in a field of cavorting figures, for $433,600 (est. $400,000-$600,000).
A representative of the London gallery White Cube grabbed Damien Hirsts Uncaring Lovers (1991), a shelf full of bottles of cow tripe, for $321,600 (est. $300,000-$400,000); New York dealer Andrew Fabricant collected Mike Kelleys Memory Ware Flat No. 15, a 2001 assemblage of buttons and marbles set in resin on a wooden panel, for $321,600 (est. $60,000-$80,000); and Barbara Gladstone vacuumed up Richard Princes 1977 set of four photographs of living rooms for $198,400 (est. $150,000-$200,000).
Madison Avenue dealer Scott Cook was the winning bidder for Matthew Barneys Cremaster 3: Oonagh MacCumhail (2002), a blue-plaid photo of a fetching, red-headed weaver of fate, for a bargain $96,000 (est. $100,000-$150,000). The Barney photo exists in seven examples.
Disappointments (relatively speaking, of course) included a large color photo of the once-red-hot Mariko Mori dressed as a miniskirted space alien on the cell phone on Tokyos Ginza, which sold for $125,600 (est. $100,000-$150,000), and David Salles super-kinky 1988 painting, Melody Bubbles and the Critique of Reason, which sold for $176,000 (est. $80,000-$120,000). A similar painting sold at Christies the day before for $260,000 at the hammer.
Christies Contemporary Does $92 Million
In the perennial battle between New Yorks big two auction houses for art market dominance, Sothebys has edged out Christies in the fall contemporary art sweepstakes, selling a total of $93.4 million in its big-ticket Nov. 9 evening auction [see below] in comparison to Christies Nov. 10 total of $92.4 million. Christies did score a high 94 percent sell-through rate, however, with 59 of 63 lots finding buyers.
"From where I stood it was fast and furious all evening long," said auctioneer Christopher Burge, though less sanguine observers noted a certain sluggishness in much of the bidding. Indeed, while Sothebys clients the night before had remained riveted to their seats through most of the auction, Christies salesroom began clearing out midway through the sale. By the final few lots, Burge was racing to finish with half the remaining audience on its feet.
Prices given here include the Christies premium of 19.5 percent on the first $100,000 and 12 percent on the remainder. The auction houses routinely spin the stats in their favor by including the premium in their calculation of sale results but omitting it from their presale estimates.
Top lot was Andy Warhols Mustard Race Riot, a large 1963 diptych that has a silkscreened grid of news photos of rampaging police dogs on one side and a monochromatic canvas on the other (a parody of the now-forgotten Color Field painting then in vogue). It was knocked down at $13.5 million ($15,127,500 with premium), rather less than its unpublished presale estimate of $15 million. The painting is now the second-highest Warhol work to sell at auction, after the artists Orange Marilyn (1964), which sold for $17.3 million to collector S.I. Newhouse at Sothebys New York in 1998. In the post-sale press conference, Burge claimed that the buyer was a collector, though viewers in the room saw Cologne dealer Rafael Jablonka win the picture.
Yale University Art Gallery was the seller of the Robert MotherwellElegy to the Spanish Republic No. 71 (1961), which fetched $2,919,500 (est. $600,000-$800,000). According to the catalogue provenance, the museum received work as a gift from legendary collector Gifford Phillips, who had bought it from the equally legendary dealer Sidney Janis. The buyer this time around was Citibank Art Advisory. After more than a decade of disinterest -- Christies claims that no major Motherwell has come on the block since 1990 -- work by the intellectual of the Ab-Ex gang seems to be back in play.
Another nonprofit institution, the New School, was selling a beautifully preserved, classic Lee Bontecou canvas and steel construction from 1960 to benefit its art acquisition fund. The buyer was Manhattan art dealer Jack Tilton, who paid $847,500 (est. $500,000-$700,000), a new auction record for the artist.
A battle between two high-profile art market players erupted over Roy Lichtensteins The White Tree (1980), a 17-foot-wide homage to the German Expressionist affection for nudes in the woods. Unseen by each other, collector Eli Broad and dealer Larry Gagosian battled it out as the bidding rose in $100,000 increments, until Gagosian won the prize at $3,000,000, the high estimate ($3,367,500 with premium).
Speaking of high-profile players, fallen Hollywood mogul (and art collector) Michael Ovitz watched much of the sale from a front-row seat, apparently taking a break from the ongoing lawsuit in a Delaware courtroom over his compensation during his short-lived tenure at Disney.
Gagosian, by the way, seemed to have a yen for works by Lichtenstein, as he also bought the artists Brushstroke Group (1987), a huge sculpture that recently got some free publicity courtesy the people of New York City, as it has been on display in City Hall Park. Produced in edition of six, the work sold for $3,367,500, a new record for a Lichtenstein sculpture.
Gagosian was the winning bidder on John Currins wan Girl in Bed (1993), which sold for $399,500, below its presale high estimate of $450,000. Currin recently moved to Gagosian Gallery after a decade at Andrea Rosen Gallery, and the silver-maned dealer briefly bid on the sales other Currin lot, the more elaborate, Norman Rockwell-manque Homemade Pasta (1999), when bidding threatened to stall at a bargain $700,000. In the end the painting sold for $847,500 (est. $700,000-$900,000), a new record for a work by the artist.
One of the sales most eccentric lots, Maurizio Cattelans Not Afraid of Love (2000), a lifelike statue of an elephant covered with a white sheet (with holes for the eyes), sold for $2,751,500, well above the presale high estimate of $900,000 and an auction record for the artist. According to New York Times reporter Carol Vogel, the sculpture was being sold by former Warhol superstar Baby Jane Holzer.
The sales second Cattelan work, an untitled self-portrait of the artist from 1991, positioned cartoon-style as if breaking through the floor into a gallery of Old Master paintings, went for $2,023,500 (est. $700,000-$900,000). The work is produced in four examples.
Several big-ticket lots were bought by Christies president Marc Porter, whose bidding style is worth noting. Broad-shouldered and handsome in a slate gray suit, Porter stood in the front of the room at the phone bank with Christies experts Amy Capellazzo and Brett Gorvy. But Porter had no phone. Whether he was taking subtle signals from a bidder in the room or working from a preset level, he stood with arms crossed, waiting until the very last minute, when Burge was about to hammer the lot down, before implacably bidding once again.
According to Christies, the sale set auction records for Marlene Dumas ($1,239,500), Carl Andre ($903,500), Dan Flavin ($735,500) and Jim Hodges ($276,300). Despite the good results for the Minimalist artists -- remember them? -- a bit of the air seems to be going out of the Donald Judd market (auction record: $4.6 million), as one early modular wall work was passed and another sold for below its presale estimate. At Sothebys the previous night, too, a Judd "Progression" piece, done in 1977 in brass, also failed to sell.
Among the buyers was Andrew Fabricant of Richard Gray Gallery, who got Jasper Johns untitled 30 x 90 in. crosshatch painting (with a skull and crossbones) from 1981-82 for $3,376,500 (est. $3,500,000-$4,500,000) and Jeff KoonsNew Hoover Convertibles (1981-86), a sculpture consisting of three vacuum cleaners lit by fluorescent tubes in a heavy Plexiglas vitrine, for $2,639,500 (est. $1,800,000-$2,200,000).
The legendary Manhattan dealer Jan Krugier snagged a delicate Alexander Calder mobile titled Number 1 to 5 (1954) for $1,071,500 -- $950,000 at the hammer, less than the presale estimate of $1,000,000-$1,500,000. Downtown dealer Jeffrey Deitch won Gerhard Richters starkly graphic cityscape painting Stadtbild Ha (1968) for $900,000 at the hammer, the works low estimate ($1,015,500 with premium).
And last but not least, art consultant Kim Heirston snagged a 1965 neon work by Conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth titled One and Eight - A Description (Violet) for $231,500 (est. $80,000-$120,000).
Sothebys Contemporary Does $93 Million
"A strange sale," said the German collector as he left the evening contemporary art auction at Sothebys New York on Nov. 9, 2004. "Yes," said his attractive companion. "Strong but weak." Sothebys itself was happy enough with the results, although almost one-fifth of the 62 lots failed to find buyers. The sale totaled $93,431,600, which auctioneer Tobias Meyer said was the highest result for a contemporary auction since 1989 (which was, of course, the year of the last art-market crash).
Prices given here include the buyers premium of 20 percent on the first $100,000 and 12 percent on the remainder.
Top lot was Mark Rothkos luminous, yellow, white and blue No. 6 (1954), which sold for $17,368,000 (est. $9 million-$12 million) to a phone bidder, after Meyer had slowly ratcheted the price up in $500,000 increments. According to the catalogue provenance, the painting had been sold twice by Manhattan superdealer Robert Mnuchin, who watched this time from one of Sothebys skyboxes. The price was a new auction record for Rothko.
The second-highest price was paid for the much-ballyhooed Jasper Johns charcoal drawing, 0 through 9 (1961), the catalogue cover lot, which was consigned by Hollywood mogul David Geffen. It sold to a telephone bidder for $10,928,000, above its presale high estimate of $9 million and a new record for a work on paper by the artist.
The sale set new auction records for nine artists, beginning with lot 1, Thomas Demands Room, a 72 x 106 in. photo of a color paper model of Hitlers wrecked headquarters, which sold for $176,000, well above its presale high estimate of $120,000. Made in 1995, the work is from an edition of five.
Mark Tanseys The Key (1984), a portentous green-black monochrome painting of a lady in an evening gown impatiently waiting for her tuxedoed escort to unlock an overgrown cemetery gate, sold to a phone bidder for a record $1,240,000 (est. $700,000-$900,000). Underbidder in the room was Madison Avenue dealer Lucy Mitchell-Innes. Tansey currently has his first show of new paintings in years on view at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea.
Richard Phillips 2001 portrait of a smirking President George W. Bush (flanked by pink rectangles) sold for a record $142,400 (est. $70,000-$90,000) to Lilly Phipps, a New York associate of art dealer Daniella Luxembourg.
Other artists records were set for Joan Mitchell ($2,696,000), Piero Manzoni ($1,800,000), Gilbert & George ($478,400), Matthew Barney ($400,000) and Yoshitomo Nara ($209,600). New "category" records were also set for a Jeff Koons painting ($2,248,000), a Damien Hirst painting ($848,000) and a Richard Prince photograph ($736,000).
Unsold lots included paintings by Francis Bacon ($3,000,000-$4,000,000), Joan Mitchell (est. $700,000-$900,000), Ellsworth Kelly (est. $700,000-$900,000), Andy Warhol (a gold and black Lenin, estimated at $600,000-$800,000), Keith Haring (est. $400,000-$600,000) and Gerhard Richters 1965 black-and-white portrait of three girls from the Danish royal family (including the current Queen Marrethe II), which carried a presale estimate of $4,000,000-$5,000,000.
Among the buyers was real estate mogul Aby Rosen, who insouciantly bid $1 million for a 1991 Jeff Koons Mound of Flowers in colored glass, probably snagging an otherwise unwanted lot at its reserve (well below its presale low estimate of $1,500,000). Rosen also bought the 1958 Cy Twombly painting for $1,800,000.
Manhattan dealer Rachel Mauro of Dickinson Roundell bought Johns gray encaustic Flag from 1971 for $4,488,000, above its presale high estimate of $4 million. Johns 1956 small Green Target, by the way,was bought for $3,368,000 by an unidentified young man in the fourth row, who had a power haircut and wore designer sunglasses. Both of these Johns works were also consigned by David Geffin.
California supercollector Eli Broad snapped up Warhols 1961 black-and-white Where Is Your Rupture? for $2,920,000, below its presale low estimate of $3,500,000. David Zwirner paid $2,024,000 for Twomblys 1960 Leda and the Swan and Jose Mugrabi bought Alexander Calders untitled 1970 stabile for $1,576,000. Longtime SoHo dealer Jack Tilton, who is said to be scouting uptown locations for a new gallery, bought the sales second work by Marlene Dumas, The Taboo (2000), for a near-record $937,600. And Amalia Dyan paid $198,400 for a set of three nylon-framed black-and-white photos of satyrs by Matthew Barney.
In addition, the Baer Faxt reports that San Francisco supercollector Kent Logan bought lot 6, Dumas 1994 Love Your Neighbor, for $926,4000, and that London dealer Tim Taylor won lot 19, Willem de Koonings oil-on-paper Clam Diggers (1964), for $3,928,000.
N.B.: Lot 9, the 82 x 79 in. "dot painting" by Damien Hirst, Amodiaquin (1993), which sold to a telephone bidder for $848,000 (est. $500,000-$700,000) was consigned by Manhattan art dealer (and former Artnet auction expert) Uta Scharf -- not by Jose Mugrabi, as reported elsewhere.
Photos Rule at Phillips
The top lot in the Nov. 9, 2004, sale at Phillips, de Pury & Co., "Veronica's Revenge: Contemporary Photography from the Lambert Art Collection," says it all. "I shop therefore I am," proclaims Barbara Krugers emblematic, billboard-sized (111 x 113 in.) work, a red and black serigraph on vinyl made in 1983 in an edition of two that sold for $601,600, well over its high presale estimate of $120,000 and a new auction record for the artist.
At the post-sale press conference, auctioneer Simon de Pury, whose upstart firm seemed in danger of bankruptcy only a year or so ago, looked like the cat who had eaten the canary. All 64 lots offered in the evening sale -- the Kruger was the grand finale -- had sold for a total of $9.2 million, "beyond what we were hoping to get for the entire collection," de Pury said. The rest of the Lambert collection, which includes 185 lots in all, goes on the block today. Bidding was "really, really fierce," said Phillips contemporary expert Michael McGinnis, noting that buyers came from "both sides of the Atlantic, even from Asia."
Notably, the collection consists entirely of cutting-edge contemporary art done in the medium of photography. "In the past 10 years," de Pury said, "photography has come out of its seclusion." The collection includes 17 works by Cindy Sherman, ten by Hiroshi Sugimoto, eight by Matthew Barney, seven by Nan Goldin, Richard Prince and Thomas Ruff, five by Fischli & Weiss, Robert Gober and Rebecca Horn, and four by Vanessa Beecroft, Andreas Gursky, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy.
In addition to the Kruger auction milestone, the sale set new records for Cindy Sherman ($478,400), Mike Kelley ($411,200), Sam Taylor-Wood ($142,400), Louise Lawler ($125,600), Nan Goldin ($105,600), Roni Horn ($96,000), Nobuyoshi Araki ($50,400) and Larry Clark ($42,000). Veronicas revenge, indeed.
The collection was dubbed "Veronicas Revenge," by the way, after the Biblical St. Veronica, who wiped Christs brow on his way to Calvary with her veil, which then miraculously retained his image -- here considered a metaphor for the photographic process. The collection, which eventually numbered some 300 photographic works, was begun in the 1980s by the Belgian Baron and Baroness Lambert. It was slated for installation in the Mario Botta-designed Bank Brussels Lambert Suisse SA in Geneva in 1990, where it remained for a mere two days before protests from the bank staff led to its removal. "Veronicas Revenge" was then circulated to several European museums and published in book form.
In the catalogue introduction, Marion Lambert frankly confesses to being viewed by some as simply "a bankers spouse with a fat wallet and a shopping list" -- a rather endearing admission, to be sure. The dispersal of the collection, Lambert notes, is prompted not only by its corporate rejection but also by the interest of her son in "justice and human rights" rather than art, and by the unhappy death of her daughter from suicide (a scandal that electrified the European press in the 1990s).
Among the star lots was Charles Rays No, his famously wooden photo portrait of a mannequin-like bust of himself, made in 1992 in an edition of four, which sold for $534,400, well above the high presale estimate of $400,000. The top Matthew Barney lot was Cremaster 5: Her Giant (1997), showing the artist in elaborate costume, fancy pigeons perched on his shoulders and a cascade of colored satin ribbons braided to his penis, which sold for $265,600 (est. $150,000-$200,000). The photo is published in an edition of six.
A large Richard Prince photograph of one of his "girlfriends" -- an appropriated image from a biker magazine of a blonde woman on a motorcycle, made in 1983 in an edition of two -- sold for $332,800, more than three times the presale high estimate of $80,000. The buyer was the artists dealer, Barbara Gladstone, standing in the back of the room and consulting with a client on a cell phone. The pioneering New York dealer -- who exhibited several of the artists represented in the sale -- also lassoed lot 40, a 1986 "Marlboro Man" cowboy image by Prince, for $288,000.
Other bidders spotted in the room included Ralph Esmerian, the third-generation diamond dealer and co-director of the International Jewelry Institute, who bought a pair of color photographs of cute dogs by Rosemarie Trockel for $50,400 and $31,200, a Charles Ray photograph of a girl whose pants are stuffed with vegetables for $38,400 and a Mike Kelley suite of 13 gelatin silver prints of dust motes, done in 1994 in an edition of five for $86,400.
Chelsea dealer Laurence Luhring bought Janine Antonis c-print of a pregnant Momme (1995-96)), an edition of eight, for $62,400 (est. $25,000-$35,000). Manhattan art advisor Thea Westreich snagged a 1972 edition of Larry Clarks "Tulsa" portfolio of 10 gelatin silver prints for $42,000 (the work was published in an edition of 50). Art consultant Kim Heirston won a 1991 Matthew Barney photo (from an edition of 10) for $50,400 and a suite of photographs by Mike Kelley of presumably parody Mark Rothko paintings all done in violet for $36,000.
Chelsea dealer Tony Shafrazi won Princes untitled appropriated color photo of a cowboys hand, holding his gloves and a Marlboro, for $187,200 (est. $60,000-$80,000), while London dealer Iwan Wirth purchased Jeff Walls staged photograph of an octopus on a table for $265,600 (est. $150,000-$200,000). Art advisor Patricia Marshall won the record-setting $125,600 Lawler photo, an image of the bedroom of Connecticut collectors Burton and Emily Tremaine with a Jasper Johns white flag over the bed. And, last but not least, art-market journalist Josh Baer bought Sarah Lucas photo of a dirty toilet graffitied with the question, "Is suicide genetic?" for $34,800 (est. $15,000-$20,000).
Prices given here include Phillips buyers premium: 20 percent of the first $100,000 and 12 percent of the remainder.