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Art Market Watch
May 15, 2006 


The May 11 evening contemporary art sale at Phillips, de Pury & Co. on West 15th Street in Chelsea was hot -- in more ways than one. "They need more ventilation in that room," exclaimed one art dealer. But the market-makers stuck it out, and the sale totaled $29,499,600 (with premium), with 74 of 76 lots finding buyers, or more than 97 percent. The final result was about $2,000,000 above the presale high estimate.

Phillips specializes in the young, and the sale featured works by Paul Pfeiffer (b. 1966), whose LCD vid of a transcendental basketball from 2000, John 3:16, in an edition of three, sold for $156,000 (est. $150,000-$200,000); Hernan Bas (b. 1978), the Miami goth painter who shows at Fredric Snitzer and Daniel Reich galleries, whose 2004 gouache-on-panel went for $90,000 (est. $40,000-$60,000); and Assume Vivid Astro Focus (b. 1968), who is now to be known as "avaf," apparently, and whose disco-installation of five works from 2004 went for $45,600 (est. $50,000-$70,000). All three prices were auction records for the artists.

But super prices were realized all around. A 1998 portrait by Karen Kilimnik of a young man who looks like Leonardo di Caprio sold for $198,000 (est. $80,000-$120,000), though it wasn't a new Kilimnik auction record -- that had been set the previous day at Christie's, when another portrait, slightly larger, sold for $273,600.

Piotr Uklanski's Skull, a large-scale black-and-white photograph of a skull formed by posing nudes -- an updated copy of a 1951 Philippe Halsman portrait of Salvador Dali with a similar human construction -- sold for $408,000 (est. $150,000-$200,000), a new auction record for the artist. A life-sized fiberglass cast of a sleeping clown by Ugo Rondinone, titled If There Were Anywhere But Desert. Thursday (2000), sold for $307,200 (est. $150,000-$200,000), also a new auction record for the artist.

Phillips' evening sale set new auction records for Tom Wesselman ($1,696,000), Peter Doig ($1,080,000), Wang Du ($329,600), Thomas Schutte ($307,200), Wilhelm Sasnal ($204,000), Huang Yong Ping ($168,000), Tatsuo Miyajima ($144,000), David Schnell ($144,000), Nobuyoshi Araki ($132,000) and Rirkrit Tiravanija ($48,000).

The Phillips day sale on May 12 totaled $11.7 million, with 77 percent of the lots finding buyers. A total of 26 new artists records were set during the auction.


The day sale of contemporary art at Sotheby's New York on May 11, 2006, totaled $56,348,201, almost double the $23.8 million presale high estimate. Overall, 384 of the 437 lots sold, or almost 88 percent. Among the top lots was Raymond Pettibon's Self Portrait as Goofy-Foot (2000), a large (for Pettibon -- 80 x 79 in.) acrylic-on-paper painting of a surfer riding a giant wave, which sold for an incredible $744,000 (est. $70,000-$90,000), a new record for the artist at auction. The two-day total for contemporary art at Sotheby's New York stands at $185,100,200 (with premium).

The sale of the Brucker Collection of "Kustom Kulture" art and memorabilia at RM Auctions in Los Angeles on May 13, 2006 [see Art Market Watch, May 8, 2006] exceeded expectations, with many lots soaring above their estimates. The personal paint box of legendary car-customizer Von Dutch (1929-92) sold for $310,500 (est. $40,000-$60,000). Another top lot was a handcrafted metal sign featuring Von Dutch's trademark flying eyeball design and the slogan, "Originator of Modern Pin Striping," which sold for $149,500, more than eight times the presale high estimate. Robert Williams' 1968 painting, In the Land of Retinal Delights, sold for $184,000, a new auction record for a work by the artist.

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