Auction Reports, May 2004
Christie's: May 11 Post-War
and Contemporary Art
Sotheby's: May 12 Contemporary
Phillips de Pury & Company: May 13 and May
May 11 Post-War
and Contemporary Art
Jackson Pollock Number 12 1949
oil on paper laid down on masonite, 31 x 22-1/2 inches
A new overall total sales record was set at the Post-War & Contemporary
Art Auction at Christie's last night. Total sales (including buyer's
premium) amounted to $102,111,650. Only 7 lots of 67 offered failed
to reach the secret minimum.
Jackson Pollock's "Number 12," (1949), which was being sold
by the Museum of Modern Art, established a world auction record for
the artist at $11,550,000 as did Joan Mitchell's "Degel,"
(1961-62) at $903,500. Willem de Kooning's sculpture "Standing
Figure," (1984) established a new world record for sculpture by
the artist coming in at $3,479,500. Jeff Koons brought in his second
highest price at auction with his highly anticipated "Jim Beam
J.B. Turner Train," (1986) for $5,495,500 almost $2M over the high
estimate and his "Saint Benedict," (2000), set a world record
for a painting by the artist during the same sale. Dan Flavin, Chuck
Close, Ed Ruscha, Brice Marden & Marlene Dumas also broke world
auction records at the sale. Warhol was well represented with "Large
Flowers," (1964), coming in at $6,727,500 and "Self-Portrait,"
(1967) was purchased by a European dealer at just shy of $7M.
Ultimately, 9 records
were broken with the most ebullient response reserved for Pollock's
piece which brought out spontaneous hand clapping when the gavel struck.
There were few disappointments at tonight's auction. Murmurs were heard
throughout, however, when John Currin's painting, "Sister,"
(1992) came in at $150K below its low estimate, passing at $350K. It
was an electric sale overall with standing room only. Christopher Burge,
in his post-auction summary for the press, attributed the frenzy in
bidding to the quality and rarity of the works offered coupled with
a stronger overall economy. It is interesting to note that wholly 78%
of the sales at auction were made by Americans followed by 17% European
with only 3% Asian.
In possible homage to Elvis or a nod to Brad Pitt in Troy, women at
the auction are beginning to use more product in their hair this spring
creating some "greasier" effects, while the sling back high
heel with extreme pointed toe is still de rigueur as last season. Men
were sporting slightly more fitted suits; shiny grey 3 button models
with ice-blue wide ties and white shirts with spread collars stood out.
The clatter of cell phones with the occasional musical refrain punctuated
the events throughout the evening as is the common practice of society's
wealthiest exiting ceremoniously ten minutes before the end to showcase
their presence and most recent couture purchases.
May 12 Contemporary
The Ballad of Trotsky 1996
taxidermied horse, leather saddlery, rope, pulley, variable measurements
The strength and depth of the contemporary art market continued to perform
last evening at Sotheby's when all 58 lots found buyers driving the
evening's take above the pre-sale high estimate to an astonishing $65,670,400
(including buyer's premium). The evening's top 5 paintings, Roy Lichtenstein's
"Step On Can with Leg," (1961), "Jasper John's "Corpse
and Mirror," (1975-76), Clyfford Still's "1960-F," (1960),
David Smith's "Untitled" (1960) and Andy Warhol's "The
Last Supper," (1986), brought in over $17M between them.
records were shattered as New York's wealthiest proved again that the
transparent environment of the auction house is an appealing alternative
to the backrooms of the dealer market. Sotheby's brilliant mix of the
very best of the current heavy hitters of contemporary art with the
classic superstars from the 60's and 70's together with an economy that
appears to be galloping along opened the wallets of the Dolce &
Gabbana set who are now more confident that buying the best is satisfying
to both the spirit and the pocketbook.
and restrained hooting burst forth as the gavel crashed down on Maurizio
Cattelan's "The Ballad of Trotsky" (1996) that exceeded it's
high, pre-sale estimate by over $1M coming in at $2,080,000 (including
buyer's premium). The taxidermied full-sized horse held air bound from
a rope and pulley was an apt symbol of the coolly challenging shift
going on in the art world presently. Ellsworth Kelly's 1971 masterpiece,
"Chatham X111: Yellow Red (EK 464)" quickly followed at just
under $3M exceeding its pre-sale high estimate by $1.5M. John Currin's,
1996 portrait, aptly named The Optimist, broke a previous record landing
at $433,600. Takashi Murakami, Tim Noble/Sue Webster, Keith Haring,
Rachel Whiteread, Jasper Johns, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yoshitomo Nara,
Clyfford Still, James Rosenquist, Claes Oldenberg, Sol Lewitt and Robert
Indiana also broke artists' records with the ubiquitous Warhol represented
by a fright-wig portrait [$1,296,000] soup can [$2,024,000] and Last
Supper with Wise potato chip logo [$2,920,000] exceeding or matching
previous strong numbers at the gavel.
Artists who use
the medium of photography had a wonderful evening with Cindy Sherman's
"Untitled Film Still #48," (1979), a 16 x 20 inch black and
white silver print of a girl with suitcase on a highway going for $280K.
Thomas Gursky's "Turner Collection," an 81-1/2 x 108-3/4 inch
Cibachrome print of a trio of Turner paintings in a museum sold at $400K
double the high estimate and Thomas Struth's "Milan Duomo,"
(1988), a 69 x 86-3/4 inch Cibachrome print of the cathedral interior
also exceeded its high estimate landing at $210K.
An extremely interesting
post-auction conversation with Sotheby's Vice President of Contemporary
Art, Matthew Carey-Williams, leads me to believe that the sons and daughters
of the elite are not buying the masterpieces of their parent's generation
but are now coming out to establish their own mark by supporting the
art of their contemporaries.
only crowd at Sotheby's tended to be slightly more formal than the Christie's
group from the previous evening and there was much less musical accompaniment
on the cell phone chatter. Manolo's continue to be the shoe of the moment
although I did notice the addition of more brass and silver hardware
at the ankles. More tough love at Sotheby's, presumably.
de Pury & Company: May 13 and May 14: Contemporary
Wie Komme Ich in Kriegszeiten mit Knoch Enbruch und Futurismus Klar
1984, oil and metallic paint on six panels, 87-3/4 x 70 inches
In hindsight, you
could say that Simon de Pury, Phillips principle auctioneer extraordinaire
and co-owner of New York's third auction house (in sales) saw the shift
in the art market coming way back when he conceived of a plan to move
from the tony uptown premises on 57th Street downtown to the hipper-than-thou
Chelsea-Meat District in Manhattan in late 2002. The epi-center of the
new world of contemporary art market was where he wanted to be and he
found a cavernous, white minimalist warehouse with a concrete floor
that mimicked the sensibility of the cool, new art galleries that were
designed to appeal to the younger, Gucci-clad collector, dealer and
art advisor. His stripping down and re-focusing on the 90's masterpieces
of contemporary art (as well as the classics of the 70's and 80's) makes
his Phillips house look like the retail boutique equivalent of Jeffrey's
as opposed to the behemoths of Barney's and Bergdorf's.
Selling 94% of the
total lots offered at above the presale high estimate of $17.5M, the
evening Contemporary Art sale was among the most successful in the firm's
history. Of the 59 lots sold 11 artists' records were smashed. Doug
Aitken's "Electric Earth (Linear Version)," (1999), an eight-channel
video installation, brought in more than double his previous record
made at Sotheby's in November of 2003 for $114K. Christopher Wool's
"Untitled (W26A-W26E)," (1990), an enamel on aluminum painting
in five parts, installed as "RUN", "DOG", "RUN",
"DOG", "RUN", sold for $848,000 also doubling his
May 1999 record sale at Christie's. Bridget Riley sensational "Serif,"
(1964), a black and white striped op-art piece rolled out the door with
a $792K price tag destroying the record for the artist of $321,839 set
in London at Sotheby's in February 2003. Richard Prince "My Name,"
(1987), a "joke" diptych painting in acrylic and silk screen
with the text, "I never had a penny to my name so I changed my
name," landed at an astonishing $747,200 surpassing his previous
record by almost $300K [also at Phillips] from November of last year.
Marlene Dumas's canvas "Young Boys" (1993) received jubilant
clapping when the gavel went down at $880K, $550K over the high estimate
giving the deep-pocketed buyer a take home price tag of $993,600 plus
applicable taxes [buyers premium 20% for the first 100K and 12% after].
Artists working with the camera continued to reduce the discrepancy
with the mediums of painting and sculpture at the rostrum with Andreas
Gursky's "Times Square," (1997), a 73-1/4 x 98-1/4 inch c-print
of the interior of the Marriott Hotel going for $271,200, over $70K
above the pre-sale high estimate. The "old timers", Bernd
and Hilla Becher sold their 22 gelatin silver print piece of black and
white variants of blast furnaces of 1997 for almost $100K above the
high estimate at $176,000. It's of note that it was under the tutelage
of this couple at the Kunstakadamie Institute in Dusseldorf that Mr.
Gursky developed his interest in topologies.
Richard Prince struck
gold again... this time using the camera with his seminal work on cowboys
appropriated from the Marlboro cigarette print advertisements. "Cowboy,"
(1999), a 68-5/8 x 40-1/2 inch Ektacolor photograph mounted on paperboard
went for $110K above its high estimate to reach $265,600.
acrylic and oilstick on canvas, "Blue Heads" (1983) captured
the biggest money of the evening going out the door at $2,024,000, followed
by Damien Hirst's "We Are Afraid of Nothing," (1992), his
pharmaceutical drug containers, glass and steel medicine cabinet and
ladder for $372K over its high estimate at $1,072,000. The ubiquitous
pop great Andy Warhol sold four works at the evening auction, "Four
Marilyns (Reversal)," (1979-86) for $579,200, "Beatle Boots
(Negative)," (1986), for $243,200, "Crosses," (1982)
for $792,000 and "Diamond Dust Shadow" (1979) at $288K. Three
out of the four hit at the centre or high end of their pre-sale estimates.
Tim Noble/Sue Webster, Daniel Richter, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Rosemarie
Trockel, Ed Ruscha and the super star of this season's contemporary
auction round, Maurizio Cattelan with "Mini-Me," (1999) at
$355,200 [$105K over high estimate] helped Phillips cash in to the ever
deepening market base of the Contemporary Art market.
Part 2 of the Contemporary Art sale at Phillips turned into a five hour
marathon which took advantage of coming at the end of a two week run
of heated collector interest. The overall feeling in the room was more
akin to the populist ambience of a mega art fare like the Armory Show
at the piers than at the wood panelled, carpeted mise en scene of the
boy's club at Sotheby's or Christie's. Over 250 items were auctioned
off with pre-sale estimates running from $3 to $200K. A top 10 paintings
brought in over $2,200,000. These included Martin Kippenberger's "Wie
Komme Ich In Kriegszeiten Mit Knoch Und Futurismus Klar," (1984),
oil and metalic paint on six panels, overall 87-3/4 x 70 inches. Estimated
at $60-80K went for a whopping $620K at the gavel. Other works bringing
in his prices were by Keith Haring, Richard Prince, Anselm Kiefer, Mike
Kelly, Gilbert and George, and Ugo Rondinone. The few disappointments
of the day fell on Julian Schnabel, Meyer Vaisman, David Salle, Jonathan
Borofsky and Philip Taafe which were passed or brought in less than
their low estimates but above the consigner's secret minimum.
The Phillips crowd
consisted of the usual suspects sporting white Prada leather jackets
and bags and men in pin-striped Brioni suits and Farragamo shoes. But,
the meat district also brought out a younger, hipper crowd some wearing
trucker hats with logos from L.A. strip clubs and army/navy store khakis
with cargo pockets and young women showing their navels wearing super-low
Rogan and Diesel jeans. There was also a smattering of what one would
describe as Hollywood types with bountiful cleavage and wrap-around
tinted glasses. I saw a T-shirt with Lick Bush in '04 in the front and
Taste Freedom on the back. Puma running shoes were everywhere as were
Gucci loafers with no socks and fitted white shirts with open white
collars that showed a bit of chest. There were a couple of babies in
the crowd which was nice and a few 5- 8 year olds who took advantage
of watching the cars being washed through the large glass windows on
the western edge of the auction room. Actually this 3 panel glass window
into the car wash was a magnet for a lot of men who perhaps were drawing
comparisons with Ruscha's 26 Parking Lots piece from the 60's. That
afternoon Phillips was a talent scout's dream casting laboratory.