The highest total for a Post-War and Contemporary Art sale was achieved yesterday when Christie’s New York led by an exceptional group of works from Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Gerhard Richter pushed prices even higher into the art world stratosphere. A total of $272,873,000/£169,181,260 /€199,197,290, selling 93% by lot and 92% by value was achieved.Eight lots sold for more than $5 million, and four works for over $10 million. the sale total nearly quadrupled the amount for the same time last year. The evening’s top price of $42,642,500/£26,438,350/ €31,129,025 – a world auction record for Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) His Pop Art masterpiece Ohhh…Alright… Painted in 1964 using his signature Ben-Day dots, illustrates the brash comic styling of the artist’s most celebrated period of artistic production.
In a sales week that will be remembered as “the season of Warhols”, Christie’s led the auction market for the artist, offering 15 Warhol works and achieving $70,381,500/£43,636,530/€51,378,495. The top price among the selection was for Andy Warhol’s hand-painted masterpiece, Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable), 1962, which sold to an anonymous bidder for $23,882,500/ £14,807,150/ €17,434,225. At six feet high, the painting is one of the largest examples of Warhol’s most famous and beloved images of a Campbell’s Soup Can. It was offered from the renowned collection of the Seattle collector Barney A. Ebsworth, who has owned it since 1987.
Balloon Flower (Blue) by Jeff Koons (b. 1955), from the Daimler Art Collection is one of the artist’s most important outdoor sculptures and belongs to his acclaimed and beloved Celebration series. This magnificent work, which has attracted sightseers and art lovers alike to the plaza in front of Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries, fetched $16,882,500/£10,467,150/ €12,324,225. Balloon Flower (Blue) is the first in a series of only five Balloon Flowers in existence, each a different color.
Zwei Kerzen by Gerhard Richter (b. 1932), from one of the most highly regarded series of paintings of Candles and Skulls that Richter created in 1982 and 1983. This intimate and contemplative painting, executed with stunning photographic realism, fetched $12,962,500/£8,036,750/ €9,462,625.
No. 18 (Brown and Black on Plum) by Mark Rothko (1903-1970), painted in a dark-toned and somber color palette, comes from the collection of the late Dr. Franz Meyer, the well-known art historian and museum director. Previously included in major exhibitions and retrospective’s of Rothko’s work, the painting sold for $9,602,500/ £5,953,550/ €7,009,852.
Important estate and private collections were the source of some of the most significant works offered this season, including one of the largest assemblages of Warhol works ever offered at auction. From the Collection of Robert Shapazian, the late former managing director of the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, Christie’s offered a wide range of Warhols encompassing each of the artist’s favorite subjects, from Marilyn Monroe to Brillo Boxes. This exceptional collection was 100% sold, with a top price of $9,042,500/ £5,606,350/ €6,601,025 achieved for Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can (Tomato) of 1962, which soared beyond its pre-sale estimate of $6-$8 million. The total Evening Sale portion of the Shapazian collection achieved $33,970,000/£21,061,400/ €24,798,100.
It looks like Contemporary Art continues to buck the recession trends and remains a viable source for investment.
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