AO November Auction Roundup 3 of 5: Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art, New York, Wednesday, November 12th: Basquiat’s “Boxer” sells while the Bacon does not, “The market is adjusting down”

November 16th, 2008

“Untitled, boxer” (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat, sold by Metallica band member Lars Ulrich for $13.5 million via Artnet

CHRISTIE’S POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY ART, New York, Wednesday, November 12th

Total Lots Offered: 75
Total Lots Sold: 51
Total Sales Value: $113.62 million
Total Sales Pre-Auction Estimate: $227 million

Christie’s New York sale of contemporary art, held on the evening of Nov. 12, 2008, was dominated by American buyers and totaled $98,480,000 ($113,627,500 with premium) or about half of the low value of its estimate of $227,150,000 to $321,350,000. 51 of 75 lots sold, or 68%, with nearly a third failing to sell. Two lots sold for over $10 million, and 32 lots sold for over 1 million dollars. Buyers were 60% American, 18% European and Russian, 0% Asian and 24% “other.” Notable attendees were tennis legend John McEnroe and billionaire Eli Broad.

Like Sotheby’s evening sale a day before, Christie’s was also damaged by its guarantees of 39 lots when 12 were brought in with a combined low estimate of $48 million, (typically a price near where an auction house will guarantee). The total guaranteed low estimate was $90 million. Overall, 24 of the 75 lots failed to find buyers which indicates a buy-in rate of 32% by lot and 55% by value. The total for this sale does not compare well to Christie’s fall contemporary sale in 2007 which totaled $325 million. Christie’s reportedly reduced their reserves and as such 52% of the lots sold below the low estimate.

Several new auction records were set, including those by Paul McCarthy and Robert Irwin, however, prices were generally below pre-sale low estimates. Some positives came from the sale including a $15 million Richter and a $13.5 million Basquiat as well as new auction records for Joseph Cornell and Yayoi Kusama. The headliner lot Francis Bacon’s Study for Self-Portrait was unsold against a low estimate $40 million or more, but no bid approached even $30 million. Many other major lots went unsold, including five sequential lots including three Warhols and a Richter valued at up to $10.0 million to $15 million.

Credit crunch hits the art market [Guardian]
Mixed Results for Contemporary Art Sale at Christie’s [NY Times]
Christie’s New York Auction Sells 68% of Contemporary Artworks [Bloomberg]
Lehman’s Fuld and Wife Sell Drawings Below Estimate [Bloomberg]
Francis Bacon portrait pulled from sale after failing to attract bids
[Telegraph UK]
Art market in shock as Christie’s calls halt to Francis Bacon sale
Art Market Watch – $113.6 million at Christie’s Contemporary
Crappy Art Market Fails to Take Revenge on Richard Fuld [NYMag]
No Bailout at Christie’s [Artinfo]
The art of avoiding the credit crunch
Credit crunch hits the art market [GuardianUK]

more with pictures after the jump…

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s, huge (74 x 96 inch) painting “Untitled (Boxer),” 1982, as seen above, had only two bidders but sold to a telephone buyer for $12 million ($13,522,500 including fees) just below of the artist’s record of $14.6 million. It was estimated at $12 million to $16 million. This painting was considered a highlight of a retrospective of the artist’s work at the Brooklyn Museum in 2005 and was sold by Lars Ulrich, songwriter and drummer for the band Metallica who bought the work in 1999 after seeing it on display in Vienna.

“Study for self portrait” (1964) by Francis Bacon, via Artnet

Perhaps most newsworthy of the auction was the no-sale of Francis Bacon’s Study for Self-Portrait, 1964, as shown above, which was a headliner estimated at $40 million but went unsold with no bids after the $27.5 million prompt. Bacon is the subject of a retrospective in the Tate gallery in London that will come to the Met in New York next year. At Sotheby’s New York in May his triptych sold for a record $86.3 million as covered by ArtObserved here.

“Abstraktes Bild, 710″ (1989) by Gerhard Richter, New York, Christie’s via ArtNet

The top lot was Gerhard Richter’s, “Abstraktes Bild (710)”, 1989, as shown above, an eight-foot-tall orange and blue canvas painted with a squeegee which sold for $14,866,500 million to a telephone bidder above its pre-sale estimate of $13 million, though the work did have an undisclosed guarantee.

“No. 2″ (1959) by Yayoi Kusama, New York, Christie’s via ArtNet

Another record was set when New York dealer Philippe Segalot (who has bought for billionaire François Pinault) and Franck Giraud, his partner in GPS Partners, won “No. 2,” 1959, by Yayoi Kusama, shown above, for $5.7 million, clearly above its $3.5 million high estimate. Kusama is currently being displayed at the Gagosian gallery.

“Lake Resort Nurse” (2003) by Richard Prince was estimated at $5-7MM,but sold for $2.9 or $3.3 with fees to Valentino’s business partner Giancarlo Giametti via ArtNet

Richard Prince’s Lake Resort Nurse, 2003, pictured above, was purchased by the designer Valentino’s business partner Giancarlo Giammetti for $2.9 million ($3.3 million with fees) which was significantly below its presale estimate of $5 million to $7 million. The work was sold by Jennifer Stockman, president of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and had been guaranteed by Christie’s, thus adding to the auction house’s losses for the evening.

“Dob in the strange forest, red dob” (1999) by Takashi Murakami, New York, Christie’s via ArtNet

Takashi Murakami’s, sculpture, DOB in the Strange Forest (Red DOB), 1999, a mushroom eyeball sculpture was sold by art investor Adam Lindemann, who had a guaranteed price from Christie’s. It was won by Philippe Segalot and Franck Giraud for $3,442,500 (with fees) against a estimate of $5 million to $7 million. Takashi Murakami has had retrospectives this year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and at the Brooklyn Museum. Murakami recently had a headliner work in London pulled at the Frieze auctions, as covered by Art Observed here.

“Pharmacy” (1943) by Joseph Cornell, New York, Christie’s via ArtNet

Joseph Cornell’s Hirst-like “Pharmacy,” 1943, as seen above, a box that once owned by Marcel Duchamp’s wife sold for $3.7 million (with fees) after active bidding from four bidders wanted to take it home. This sale was well above its high estimate of $2 million and was an auction record for the artist.

Brice Marden - Attendant 5 - unsold - $10,000,000-$15,000,000

Brice Marden’s oil painting Attendant 5, 1996–99, was a no sale despite the bidding beginning at $7.5 million. Its estimate was $10 million to $15 million.

Andy Warhol - Shadow - unsold - estimated at $5,000,000-$7,000,000

Other no sales were Peter Doig’s Pine House (estimated at $4.5 million-$6.5 million), Georg Baselitz’ Ein Grüner (estimated at $4 million-$6 million), Roy Lichtenstein’s Two Nudes (estimated at $3.5 million-$4.5 million), Andy Warhol’s Shadow ($5.0 million – $7.0 million) , his Double Jackie (estimated $1.8 million-$2.2 million), his Mao (estimated $4.5 million-$6.5 million) and his image of four poppies (estimated at $2 million-$3 million).

“Study for agony I” (1946-1947) by Arshile Gorky sold by the Fulds for $2.2 against a low estimate of $2.2 million photo via ArtNet

This auction was notable in its auctioning of works by the in-the-press couple Kathy and Dick Fuld. Museum of Modern Art trustee Kathy Fuld, wife of ex-Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld, arranged the sale of sixteen postwar Abstract Expressionist drawings at auction shortly before Lehman Brothers said it would have to file for bankruptcy. The works sold this evening under the title “Master Drawings of American Post-War Art: A Private Collection” included three Willem de Koonings, five Barnett Newmans, four Arshile Gorkys and four Agnes Martins. The sale brought in $13,552,500 (with premium), which was significantly less than the secret guarantee, which was reported to be $20 million. The best of the group sold was Arshile Gorky’s “Study for Agony I,” 1946-47, purchased by the Fuld’s at Christie’s in 1996 for $370,000. The piece was sold to New York dealer Matthew Marks for $2.2 million with fees just at the low end of its estimate of $2.2 million to $2.8 million. De Kooning’s Woman sold for $2,770,500 $2.8m below its $3m-$4m estimate.

Willem de Kooning - Woman - $2,770,500 estimate $3,000,000-$4,000,000

Christie’s President Marc Porter said to Reuters, “The market is continuing, but clearly at a different price level. There’s no panic in the market, but there is an adjustment.” Allan Schwartzman, an art adviser said to the New York Times “The auction house may not have done well, but some collectors did.” Marc Porter, president of Christie’s North and South America said to Bloomberg “The market is adjusting down.” Christie’s head of sale, Robert Manley said to Art Info “These were June estimates. We’re in a different world now.”

The following is a brief summary of the day sale that occurred following the main Contemporary sale by Christie’s.


Total Lots Offered: 225
Total Sales Value: $39,084,500

“Afterworld” (2007) by Damien Hirst, sold for $902K, within estimates, via ArtNet

“Landscape with figure” (1956) by Richard Diebenkorn, sold for $2,546,500 against an estimate of $3.0 million to $4.0 million via Art Net

“Napa Valley ridge” (1986-1997) by Wayne Theibaud, sold for $1,142,500MM sold for against an estimate of $1,200,000 via ArtNet