Big, Blue $43.8 million Newman “Zip” Painting leads Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Sale – UPDATED with sale results.
UPDATE: Sotheby’s pulled in more than $293 million at the evening sale of Post War & Contemporary (total reflects hammers prices plus buyers’ premiums). Here’s a portion of the excellent coverage from Judd Tully at Artinfo.com:
NEW YORK — Fueled by a handful of outstanding offerings, the contemporary art market maintained its upwardly momentum on Tuesday at Sotheby’s, racking up $293,587,000. Impressively, 44 of the 53 lots that sold hurdled the million dollar mark. Of those, five exceeded $20 million.
Four artist records were set, including for Barnett Newman’s magisterial, electric blue hued zip painting, “Onement VI” (1953), which sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for $43,845,000 (est. $30-40 million). It eclipsed the record set in November (2012) at Christie’s New York when “Onement V,” from the same iconic series, made $22.3 million.
This example is freighted with considerable history, including a Coca-Cola spill on the surface that required expert (though now largely invisible) restoration as well as a role in a complex tax evasion case and civil lawsuit in 2003 that involved at least two art world luminaries. The baggage couldn’t deter the masterpiece from making its mark.
Eleven of the 64 lots offered failed to find buyers, making for a decent buy-in rate of 13 percent by lot and 18 percent by value. The tally rates as Sotheby’s fifth biggest contemporary art evening sale and easily exceeded last May’s $266,591,000 result.
Still, the evening felt like a mild roller coaster as two of five works by Jeff Koons were bought in, most surprisingly, the one offered by mega-collector Peter Brant, “New Hoover Celebrity IV, New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton 5 Gallon Wet/Dry, New Shelton 10 Gallon Wet/Dry Double Decker” (est. $10-15 million). Brant bought the 1981-86 sculpture, which — logically — consists of the four titular vacuum cleaners, at Sotheby’s New York in April 1991 for $137,500.
ORIGINAL POST: A big, bold, blue Barnet Newman “zip” painting, estimated at $30-40 million, leads Sotheby’s May 14 Evening Post War & Contemporary Art Sale. If you love Newman’s “zip” paintings, you’ll be all over this one – if not, you’ll wonder what the fuss is all about. One thing is for certain, it has a third party guarantee, so it will definitely be sold. According to the catalogue notes: “By far the most momentous in scale of the six paintings of the Onement series, Onement VIis also one of only two of this title to be held in private hands.”According to the catalogue notes:
In 1968 Richter received a major commission from the Siemens Corporation for a large painting to install in its Milan offices and, working on a scale unprecedented in his photo-painting mode and anxious to deliver an outstanding feat, the artist primed two canvases so as to be ready to start over if it became necessary. Indeed, his first attempt at this scale proved a failure, and Richter was forced to cut that canvas into nine smaller paintings that thereafter became independent works. He then composed and executed Domplatz, Mailand, one of the most assured essays of his photo-painting style to date which was to hang in the Siemens Milan offices for 30 years between 1968 and 1998. Adopting as his source a composed snapshot of the famous view of the Piazza del Duomo in front of Milan’s Cathedral, Richter determinedly yet meticulously blurs the image of the bustling concourse. The composition is dominated by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which juts in from the left edge and recedes dramatically through the center of the canvas, leading the spectator’s eye from left to right towards the straight-on view of the Cathedral itself.
The catalogue contains this intriguing entry about the sitter and his relation to Bacon:
The first of Bacon’s posthumous homages to Peter Lacy, the present work conveys the immediate memory of the man who dominated the artist’s life for the prior decade. In 1952, having met Peter Lacy in Soho’s Colony Room, Bacon embarked on what was to become “the most exalted and most destructive love affair he was ever to know.” (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in the 1950s, London, 2006, pp. 57-58) The former Battle of Britain pilot was described by Bacon as always being “in a state of unease…this man was neurotic and almost hysterical.” Bacon had fallen in love in large part because Lacy knew how to dominate and hurt him. Tough, to the point of cruelty, Lacy’s demeanor held Bacon perpetually in an emotional and physical vice and although Lacy was the love of his life, this tempestuous affair was ultimately calamitous. Bacon later lamented in conversation with Michael Peppiatt that “Being in love in that way, being absolutely physically obsessed by someone, is like an illness.” (Ibid., p. 40).
The Pollock was first shown at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery, which with it curved walls reflected Guggenheim’s eccentricity. As noted in the catalogue: “The association of Pollock and Peggy Guggenheim was the engine behind this rise in prominence, and as such was essential to the history of contemporary art.”
The Klein, which has a third party guarantee, has an impressive provenance as noted in the catalogue: “Showcased in Iris Clert’s legendary 1959 Paris exhibition Bas-reliefs dans une forêt d’éponges, SE 168 was acquired in the year of its execution by the collectors Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, without question among the most revered connoisseurs of Modern and Contemporary art of their time.”
Below are two other notable works, a Cy Twombly from the Bolsena series and a large scale Robert Ryman painting from 2002.