A canvas by the American Abstractionist Cy Twombly has set a $70.5 million auction record for the artist. The “blackboard” painting, Untitled (New York City), 1968, was the highpoint of the Contemporary evening sale at Sotheby’s, which also saw records smashed for artists such as Mike Kelley. The sale total totalled $254–$313.7 million with 44 of 54 works, 82%, finding buyers.
The sales second-highest lot sold in the sale was an Andy Warhol Mao (1972) canvas, This was one of the earliest portraits of the Chinese Little Red Book leader. The painting, a silkscreen on canvas, sold for $47.5 million, topping the $40-million presale estimate. The work was produced after Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China. Measuring just under seven foot high, it depicts the Communist leader, appropriated from his official State portrait. The painting was last under the hammer in 1996, when it realised just $1 million. Other highlights of the evening were works by Bacon, Pollock, Fontana, and Basquiat.
The sale came fast on the heals of the Contemporary Art sale at Christie’s New York where $332-million was tallied on the block. Another Warhol painting under performed realising $26 million, and falling short of its estimate. Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu Couché (Reclining Nude), 1917–18, became the second-priciest lot in auction history at $170.4 million.
Christie’s Impressionist and modern art auction will complete the Autumn auction season tonight.