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Two-day $563 Million Orgy leaves almost everyone breathless

November 10, 2011

The Post-War and Contemporary art sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s collectively raked in some $563 million during two evenings, this amidst economic and political turmoil in Greece and Italy and a steep stock market slide.  Big money is flowing into big name art.

Our preview of ten lots in the Christie’s sale included the star work, Roy Lichtenstein’s 1961 I Can See The Whole Room! … And There’s Nobody In It! which carried a pre-sale estimate of $35-45 million.  Bidding opened at $27 million and the painting ultimately sold for a hammer price of $38.5 million (or $43,202,500 including the buyer’s premium).  Additional coverage of the sale here in artinfo, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Works by Clyfford Still are rare at auction, so the four works sold by Sotheby’s on behalf of the City of Denver to benefit that city’s new Clyfford Still Museum generated a great deal of interest and some controversy (museum deaccessioning is a very touchy subject). The lead lot, 1949-A-No. 1 (included in our preview), carried a $25-35 million estimate.  It opened at $18 million and soared to a hammer price of $55 million (or $61,682,500 with the buyer’s premium). The Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow had this interesting quote in her post sale coverage:

After the sale, Christopher Hunt, president of the Denver Museum’s board, hailed the prices paid for Still’s art, adding that the sale “confirms Clyfford Still’s rightful place as a leader” in 20th century art.

That’s an unfortunate remark because it implies that Still’s art historic significance is determined by the cost of the work.

Along with the Stills were eight Gerhard Richter abstraction paintings, three of which sold to the same telephone bidder (paddle number L0086).  Additional coverage here in artinfo, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

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