Christie’s Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary art has achieved US $658,532,000 (£419,714,468/ €584,662,254) with sell-through rates of 88% by lot and 94% by value. Bidders from 40 different countries gathered for the sale to compete for top-quality works by the pioneering artists of the era, including Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Lucian Freud, Cy Twombly, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Franz Kline, and Robert Ryman. The top lot of the sale was Rothko’s No. 10, an ethereal masterpiece by the artist from 1958. It sold for $81,925,000 (£52,214,786/ €72,735,198), notching the second highest price for the artist at auction. The sale established eight new world auction records for a diverse range of artists, including Lucian Freud, Robert Rauschenberg, Hans Hoffman, Robert Ryman, Sturtevant, and Giovanni Anselmo, among others.
Three lots sold for over $50 million, eight works for over $20 million, thirteen for over $10 million and 63 for over $1 million. 27% of the works sold above their estimate, and 44% sold within estimate range.
Brett Gorvy, International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, commented on the sale: “The response that we saw to the sale this evening proves the sophistication, knowledge and competitive urge of many of our top buyers. They were pursuing not just great works but also great collections tonight, and showed they were willing to stretch and stretch some more to have the best.”
With the sale of Rothko’s No. 10 midway through the sale, Christie’s running tally for this sale week crossed the US$1 billion threshold. Massive in scale, Gorvy noted the painting is considered a quieter, more contemplative and therefore more challenging work within the artist’s oeuvre. Yet seven collectors, including clients from the U.S., Europe and Asia, chased the painting past the $50 million dollar mark, trading bids in a prolonged battle that lasted nearly six minutes. It sold to an anonymous client on the phone with Gorvy.
Brett Gorvy described the painting: “No. 10 was painted the year Rothko began his iconic Seagram Murals, exploring a new language of forms and color harmonies. Rothko moved away from bright colors to powerful earthy hues of copper, plum, black and reddish brown, and challenged new structures to his classic floating clouds. Instead of the more standard presentation of three floating elements, here Rothko creates a dominant upper form that expands like breath and floats impossibly above the darker form. Everything is encased in a black, which has been painted over a blue so that it too has definition despite its darkness. This is a truly mystical painting and one that is a total meditation on the infinite and the sublime.”
Lucian Freud’s highly anticipated Benefits Supervisor Resting, a masterful reworking of the traditional theme of the nude, was sold for the world auction record price of US$56,165,000 (£35,796,686/€49,864,783). The price well exceeded its estimate as well the previous artist’s auction record of US$33.6 million, set at Christie’s London in 2008. The square-format depiction of Freud’s model Sue Tilley, which drew in viewers to Christie’s presale exhibitions in Hong Kong, London and New York, had never been offered at auction before. Four bidders chased the work up and over the $30 million mark, until it was finally hammered down to a client bidding in the room.
The stellar collection assembled by art world figures Ileana Sonnabend and her daughter Nina Sundell gave the sale a lively start. All nineteen works from the collection selected for the Evening Sale found buyers, with many reaching hammer prices well above estimate. The group totaled $60.1 million, more than twice the pre-sale estimate, and three artist records were set, including: Robert Rauschenberg’s Overdrive from 1963, which sold for $18,645,000 and Carroll Dunham’s Fourth Birch from 1983, which realized $509,000. Giovanni Anselmo’s Torsione, executed in 1968, wowed the still-gathering audience as Lot 1, inspiring a bidding war that pushed the sculpture from a presale estimate of $600,000 – 800,000 to a whopping $6.4 million, far exceeding his previous record of $441,425.
Laura Paulson, Chairman, Post-War & Contemporary Art, noted: “The competitive bidding we saw for all of the works from the collection are a tremendous validation of the passion and the eye of these two great art world figures. We look forward to offering a further group of 68 works from the collection in our Day sale on Thursday, May 14.”
Christie’s set a new world auction record for Robert Ryman, realizing US$20,605,000 (£13,132,569/ €18,293,668) for Bridge, an oil on canvas from 1980. The sale marked the first time the work had ever appeared at auction, and was one of three works by the artist offered in the sale. Later in the sale, Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Bolsena) fetched US$42,725,000 (£27,230,720/ €37,932,393), marking the 2nd highest price for the artist at auction.
8 ARTISTS’ WORLD AUCTION RECORDS
$6,437,000 Giovanni Anselmo
$18,645,000 Robert Rauschenberg
$509,000 Carroll Dunham
$56,165,000 Lucian Freud
$6,325,000 Hans Hofmann
$20,605,000 Robert Ryman
$4,757,000 Rudolf Stingel
6 RECORDS FOR MEDIUM
$3,525,000 Pollock, Untitled record for a work on paper by the artist at auction
$1,205,000 Dubuffet, Pleurnichon record for a sculpture by the artist at auction
$5,317,000 Warhol, Dollar Bill record for a work on paper by the artist at auction
$7,500,000 Koons, Triple Elvis record for a painting by the artist at auction
$2,405,000 Wool, Untitled record for a work on paper by the artist at auction
$4,421,000 Lichtenstein, Collage for Interior: Perfect Pitcher record for a work on paper by the artist at auction