$44.9 Million Rothko leads $343.6 Million Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s
The evening kicked off with frenzied bidding for Glenn Ligon’s Untitled (I Was Somebody), which blew through it’s $1.5 million high estimate to sell for $3,973,000 ($3.4 million hammer plus fees) to a telephone bidder who picked up Lot 3, Christopher Wool’s Last Year Halloween Fell on a Weekend for $8.005 million ($7 million hammer plus fees). The Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow tweeted that Dealer Jose Mugrabi picked up the first of the Warhols, a Self Portrait for $3.245 million ($2.75 million hammer plus fees). The first major high priced work, which carried an irrevocable bid, was Lot 8, the Gerhard Richter below. It opened at $12 million and moved at a steady but unimpressive pace to hammer at $19 million ($21,445,000 with fees) to an Asian bider in the room, tweeted Crow. This was followed by the Jasper Johns Flag (below), which opened at $12 million, sailed past it’s $20 million high estimate to hammer for $32 million ($36,005,000 with fees).
The Ryman (below) carried a hefty estimate, which if hit would be a record. It also carried an irrevocable bid, so guaranteed to sell, but for how much? Bidding opened at $11.75 million, but the work never hit it’s low estimate, hammering for $13.25 million ($15.005 million with fees) to dealer Dominique Levy – a new world record. Levy then purchased Lot 14, Alexander Calder’s The Handshake and the Fishtail for $2,965,000 ($2.5 million hammer plus fees).
The Rothko (above) opened at $28 million and moved steadily to $37.5 million when a new bidder entered with a $38 million bid – it finally hammered at $40 million ($44,965,000 with fees), to mild applause. At this point in the evening the pace and energy cooled. The firs to the sale’s 11 casualties, Lot 19, Ad Reinhardt’s Abstract Painting, Blue, 1953, tanked at $4.3 million, below it’s $5 million low estimate. The Warhol Liz #3 (Early Colored Liz), opened at $24 million and hammered for $28 million ($31,525,000 with fees), which seemed anticlimactic. Another Warhol, Lot 31, Self Portrait (Fright Wig), could not make the $12 million low estimate, but still hammered for $10 million ($11,365,000 with fees). [Is this an indicator of market Warhol fatigue? If so, that could spell trouble for Christie’s where two major works by the artist are the stars of its upcoming auction.]
This was followed by two high priced failures – Lot 33, Jeff Koons’ Moon (Yellow), which stalled at $11.5 million below its $12 million low estimate, followed by Lot 37, Warhol’s Little Electric Chair that bombed at $6.8 million, below it’s $7.5 million low estimate. The next big Warhol, Lot 41, Brigitte Bardot, fared better, hammering just above its $10 million low estimate at $10.25 million ($11,645,000 with fees). Koons’ sculpture Bear and Policeman, Lot 47, squeaked through at its $7 million low estimate ($8,005,000 with fees), to the same buyer as Lot 2,Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Grey White and Yellow Lined Over Blue Green Face 809) for $4 million ($4,645,000 with fees). Another Ryman painting, Lot 53, Gate from 1995, estimated at $6-8 million, couldn’t make the low estimated, but still hammered for $5.4 million ($6,213,000 with fees), to the same buyer as Lot 51, Urs Fischer’s You Can Only Lose, which hammered below its $600,000 low estimate for $550,000 ($665,000 with fees). The Guyton (below) opened at $3.1 million, limped along until hammering below its $4 million low estimate for $3.5 million ($4,085,000 with fees).