Record Breaking $142.4 million Bacon Triptych Leads Christie’s $691.5 Million Nov. 2013 Contemporary Art Sale in New York
What a wild evening! It virtually rained money. The new record for the most expensive work at auction was established with the sale at Christie’s November 12, 2013 evening sale of Post War and Contemporary art in New York of Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which sold for $142,405,000 ($127 million hammer price plus the buyer’s premium). The triptych got a late, third party guarantee, so it was certain to sell, but at what price? Bidding opened at $80 million and quickly shot past the $100 million mark in $5 million increments. When the hammer finally came down after six minutes of bidding by seven bidders, and a bit of teasing by the auctioneer, the winning phone bid was taken by Lock Kresler at Christie’s London on behalf of New York’s Acquavella Galleries resulting in much applause, even from the auctioneer. (Christie’s press release arrived at 7:59PM). [ The sale brought in a huge $691,583,000 – here are the complete results]. Adding in the results of the Nov. 13 morning and afternoon sales, and the total for the fall Post War & Contemporary sales at Christie’s exceed $750 million.
As Artinfo’s Judd Tully summed it up: “Sixteen lots sold for more than $10 million, and of those, eleven made over $20 million, while three exceeded $50 million. Additionally, ten artist records were set. The results smashed last November’s $412.2 million result for 67 lots sold; and when you include the hefty buyer’s premium to each of the 63 lots that sold, the average lot price comes out to $10,977,508.”
The highly anticipated sale gained an additional boost from a front page New York Times story about hard sell the auction houses employ to move multi-million dollar pieces of art. Then word started flying around on twitter that Christie’s had moved the signature lot of their sale, the Francis Bacon triptych, up into an earlier spot, from lot 32 to lot 8a, right after the Christopher Wool APOCALYPSE NOW. Brisk bidding opened the first seven lots leading into lot 8, the Wool, which easily blew through it’s $20 million high estimate to selling to New York dealer Christophe van de Weghe for a hammer price of $23.5 million ($26,485,000).
The Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Orange), estimated at $35 – 55 million, opened at $35 million and for a moment appeared about to sell at the low estimate. Bidding picked up and it appeared dealer New York dealer dealer David Zwirner would get the work for $51 million, but another bidder swooped in to get it for a hammer price of $52 million ($58,405,000 with the buyer’s premium), the most expensive work at auction by a living artist. (Christie’s press release about this lot arrived at 8:08PM). The evening’s first couple of buy-ins ensued, with works by Luc Tuymans and Mauricio Cattelan falling flat. The large orange Rothko (below) enlivened the audience drawing at winning hammer price of $41 million ($46,085,000 with the buyer’s premium) and, somewhat remarkably, tepid applause. Hard group to please.
The Warhol Coca-Cola (3) chugged along from $32 to $50 million and seemed ready to sell at that number, then Amy Cappallazzo of Christie’s taking a phone bid grabbed it for $51 million ($57,285,000 with the buyer’s premium). Lot 35, the Richter Abstraktes Bild (809-1), being sold by Eric Clapton, almost got bought in at $18 million (against an estimate of approximately $25 million), but managed to get one real bid and sell for a hammer price of $18.5 million ($20,885,000 with the buyer’s premium).