Classic American images — a Warhol self-portrait, a Rothko red canvas and a Pollock painting rich with the artist’s sinewy drips — blew the lid off Sotheby’s sale of contemporary art on Wednesday night.
"Buying was totally global,” Tobias Meyer, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art department and the evening’s auctioneer, said after the sale. “There were many new collectors who came into the market tonight.”
Many of those bidders helped push the sale beyond Sotheby’s expectations. Of the 53 works on offer, only three failed to sell. The auction totaled $190 million, above the $168 million high estimate. The sale offered a commercial selection of work by blue-chip artists, and prices were strong throughout the evening.
All eyes were on the 1986 Andy Warhol “Self Portrait,” which sold for $32.6 million, well above its $15 million high estimate. That and the Mark Rothko canvas each brought more than Jasper Johns’s “Flag” from the much-publicized estate of the best-selling writer Michael Crichton, which fetched $29.6 million at Christie’s on Tuesday night. Christie’s however, did better over all in its postwar and contemporary sale, with a total of $231.9 million.
The seller of the Warhol was Tom Ford, the fashion designer, movie director and collector. He was not at the Sotheby’s sale, but was said to be watching it on the Internet from his London home.
The competition made for good entertainment. Six bidders wanted to buy the painting, which ended up selling to Gregoire Billaut of Sotheby’s in Paris. Mr. Billaut was bidding by telephone for an unidentified client.
In this painting, made a year before his death, Warhol’s face is cast in a purple light; he is wearing his signature fright wig and staring hauntingly straight at the viewer. He made five versions of the image in this large format — it is nine feet square — and each has a different color.
The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh has two — one yellow, one blue; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has a green one; and Peter M. Brant, a newsprint magnate, has a red one. Another classic Warhol that also made a big price on Wednesday night was a 1964 image, “Flowers.” Nicholas Maclean, a Manhattan dealer, beat out three other bidders, paying $6.75 million, or $7.6 million with Sotheby’s fees. It had been estimated to fetch $5 million to $7 million.
David Martinez, a Mexican financier, was selling the Rothko. A telephone bidder, described by a Sotheby’s official as an American collector, was one of five people who tried for the painting. The buyer ended up paying $31.4 million, above its high $25 million estimate. The painting had belonged to Marguerite Hoffman, a Dallas collector, until three years ago. She sold it to Mr. Martinez for an undisclosed price through L & M Arts, the Manhattan gallery. Robert Munchin of L & M had bought it at Christie’s in 1997 for $1.8 million.
“Cold Mountain I (Path),” from 1988-89, the first of six paintings in Brice Marden’s coveted “Cold Mountain” series, was one of the few works that did not make its anticipated price. Only two bidders wanted the painting. It sold to a telephone bidder for $8.7 million or $9.6 million, including Sotheby’s fees, under its $10 million low estimate.
Abstract Expressionist works are still sought after: “Number 12A, 1948: Yellow, Gray, Black,” a drip painting on paper, shown in the famous 1949 Life magazine article, “Jackson Pollock — Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?,” ended up selling for $8.7 million, far above its $6 million estimate.
Two Calder sculptures from the early 1960s were on offer. “Yellows in the Air,” a 1916 mobile with a high estimate of $900,000, was bought by Paul Gray, the Chicago dealer, for $1.4 million. And a larger and earlier mobile, “Blue and Yellow Sickles,” from 1960, brought $3.7 million, above its high $2 million estimate.
As was true at Christie’s on Tuesday night, Sotheby’s sale offered no works by emerging artists, but a younger generation was represented. An installation by the Italian-born artist Maurizio Cattelan, a sculpture of the artist peeking out of a hole in the floor, brought a record price for the artist at auction, selling to a telephone bidder for $7.9 million, nearly twice its high $4 million estimate. The seller, William Acquavella, the Manhattan dealer, bought it for $2 million at Christie’s in 2004.
Charles Saatchi, the London advertising magnate and gallery owner, who has a reputation for buying the work of emerging artists and then selling them at a profit, was selling an oval wood panel depicting Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist and Civil War spy. The piece is by Matthew Day Jackson, a hot 36-year-old who was the youngest and perhaps least-known artist in the sale. Another telephone bidder paid $662,500 for the work, well above its $400,000 high estimate.
After the sale, as people were milling around Sotheby’s lobby, everyone was pleased that despite the roller coaster stock market, people still wanted to put their money in art. Francis Beatty Adler, a Manhattan dealer and co-chairman of the Drawing Center in New York, noted, “There seems to be very little people won’t buy at auction.”.
Warhol created self-portraits throughout his career. In this painting, made a year before his death, he is posed against a purple background wearing his signature fright wig and staring hauntingly straight at the viewer. He made five versions in this large format – it is nine feet square – each with a different background color. The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh has two, one yellow, the other blue. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has a green one; and Peter M. Brant, the newsprint magnate, has a red one.
One of Mark Rothko’s untitled abstract red canvases, this one from 1961, also went for a high price: $31.4 million, also to a telephone bidder. The painting was estimated to bring $18 million to $25 million. David Martinez, a Mexican financier, was the seller.
By Carol Vogel http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/05/13/nyregion/13auction_CA0.html
Warhol continues to dominate the contemporary art world with his work doubling set estimates selling for $32.6 million high above its $15 million estimated cost. Unlike the Rothko painting that sold for 31.4 million, Warhol's work although perhaps less time consuming to produce has become so recognizable that its status symbol qualities dominate artist's considered more talented and skilled. His art is less unique ( mass produced even ) and that which was considered to be a weakness, becomes its strength.
The images are so well known around the globe that to possess one has unprecedented prestige. Proof of Warhol's ability to impress his will and image into the collective mindset of the populace at large, to make the common man a connoisseur, that his pieces are instantly recognizable by all is the key to his success. That even the most naive high school art freshman can call out - "its a Warhol! "in art history class is a testament to his omnipresence. With a background in graphic design and advertising, by creating images of household named goods, Campbell's Soup, Coke, Mariln, and Elvis -- Warhol has become a house hold name himself. His associations with New York's elite and Hollywood's celebs elevated him to their level. The fact that something as simple as a self portrait photograph, slightly augmented, mind you, can sell for 32.6 mil is phenomenal in itself. For all of us its a comforting to find something familiar - and that familiarity sells in the millions as the advertising world knows all too well. - Ecomanta