Warhol and Lichtenstein See Christie’s Reversal Of Fortune
$247.6m sale total at Christie’s makes up for last week’s auction in which even work by Degas failed to find a buyer
We speculated yesterday that the lukewarm contemporary sale at Phillips De Pury was perhaps attributable to buyers guarding their purse strings in anticipation of bigger sales at rival houses later in the week; this theory seems to have been proved right, if last night’s highly lucrative sale at Christie's is anything to go by. The impressive $247.6m sale total will come as a relief to Christie's officials, who last week were rocked by extremely disappointing results when even their leading lot by Degas failed to sell.
The Christie's catalogue boasted the highest-valued lot of the entire season; Roy Lichtenstein's 1961 canvas 'I Can See The Whole Room...And There's Nobody In It!' was given a high estimate of $45m and came in just about on target at $43.2m, eventually going to art adviser Guy Adams after a fierce bidding war. This sale set a record for Lichtenstein, just one of 13 artist records set that night.
Pop art in general fared extremely well with buyers at Christie's; a Warhol silk-screen print of Elizabeth Taylor from 1963 sold for $16.3m, just over its estimate. Also amongst the top 5 highest-selling lots was another Warhol piece – 'Four Campbell's Soup Cans', a variation on the artist's iconic image, reached $9.8m, comfortably inside its $7-10m estimate.
In contrast to the great interest shown in pop art, some former auction house favourites fell somewhat short of the mark. Mark Rothko's 'White Cloud', although the second-highest selling lot of the night at $18m, received just one anonymous telephone bid. And Gerhard Richter's 1965 piece 'Frau Niepenberg' failed to draw any bids at all, despite having been valued at $12m.
Overall, 90% of lots found buyers, which when compared to last week's dismal rate of 62% means this sale must be considered a success for Christie's. It seems that on this occasion, their high-estimate strategy worked in their favour; but this only serves to emphasise the unpredictability of the current art market. Words Maddie Bates © 2011 ArtLyst