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$44.9 Million Rothko leads $343.6 Million Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s

November 11, 2014

Lot 27. ANDY WARHOL 1928 - 1987 LIZ #3 [EARLY COLORED LIZ] acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas 40 x 40 in. 101.6 x 101.6 cm. Executed in October - November 1963. Estimate on request.

Lot 27. ANDY WARHOL 1928 – 1987 LIZ #3 [EARLY COLORED LIZ]
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas: 40 x 40 in. – 101.6 x 101.6 cm.
Executed in October – November 1963.
Estimate on request. This lost sold for $31,525,000 ($28 million hammer price plus fees).

 The Fall 2014 Contemporary Art banquet/bacchanal/auction week continued tonight at Sotheby’s following last night’s $158.7 million “white glove” sale of works from the estate of Bunny Mellon – the amuse-bouche of this art feast. Of the 79 lots offered, one was withdrawn (a Calder stabile), 11 went unsold and the remainder, led by the $44.9 million Rothko No. 21 (below)  – grossed $343,621,000 ($295,015,000 in collective hammer prices plus fees). The sale was estimated to bring in $323.1 million to $418.6 million – since the estimates do not include the buyer’s premiums, Sotheby’s fell some $28 million short of the low estimate.

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).

Lot 9. JASPER JOHNS B. 1930 FLAG signed and dated 1983 on the reverse encaustic on silk flag on canvas 11 5/8 x 17 1/2 in. 29.5 x 44.4 cm. Estimate: $15-20 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 9. JASPER JOHNS B. 1930 FLAG
signed and dated 1983 on the reverse
encaustic on silk flag on canvas: 11 5/8 x 17 1/2 in.-  29.5 x 44.4 cm.
Estimate: $15-20 million. This lost sold for $36,005,000 ($32 million hammer price plus fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 8. GERHARD RICHTER B. 1932 ABSTRAKTES BILD signed, dated 1991 and numbered 747-4 on the reverse oil on canvas 78 3/4 x 78 3/4 in. 200 x 200 cm. Estimate: $15-20 million.

Lot 8. GERHARD RICHTER B. 1932 ABSTRAKTES BILD
signed, dated 1991 and numbered 747-4 on the reverse
oil on canvas: 78 3/4 x 78 3/4 in. – 200 x 200 cm.
Estimate: $15-20 million. This lost sold for $21,445,000 ($19 million hammer price plus 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).

Lot 11. ROBERT RYMAN B. 1930 UNTITLED signed and dated 61; signed four times and dated 61 three times on the overturned left edge oil on canvas 48 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. 123.7 x 123.7 cm. This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being organized by David Gray under number 61.024. Estimate: $15-20 million.

Lot 11. ROBERT RYMAN B. 1930 UNTITLED
signed and dated 61; signed four times and dated 61 three times on the overturned left edge
oil on canvas: 48 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. – 123.7 x 123.7 cm.
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being organized by David Gray under number 61.024.
Estimate: $15-20 million. This lost sold for $15,005,000 ($13,250,000 plus fees).

Lot 17. MARK ROTHKO 1903 - 1970 NO. 21 (RED, BROWN, BLACK AND ORANGE) signed and dated 1953 on the reverse oil on canvas 95 x 64 in. 241.5 x 162.5 cm. Executed in 1951. Estimate on request.

Lot 17. MARK ROTHKO 1903 – 1970 NO. 21 (RED, BROWN, BLACK AND ORANGE)
signed and dated 1953 on the reverse
oil on canvas: 95 x 64 in. – 241.5 x 162.5 cm.
Executed in 1951.
Estimate on request. This lost sold for $44,965,000 ($40 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, 1953tanked 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 Losewhich 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).

WADE GUYTON B. 1972 UNTITLED each signed and dated 2010 on the overlap Epson UltraChrome inkjet on canvas, in two parts each: 84 x 69 in. 213.4 x 175.3 cm. Estimate: $4-6 million. Click on image to enlarge.

WADE GUYTON B. 1972 UNTITLED
each signed and dated 2010 on the overlap
Epson UltraChrome inkjet on canvas, in two parts – each: 84 x 69 in. – 213.4 x 175.3 cm.
Estimate: $4-6 million. This lost sold for $ ($ plus fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

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