New York – AO Auction Results: Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale, Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

November 14th, 2012

Sotheby’s saleroom with Rothko, No 1 (Royal Red and Blue) photo by ArtObserved

Last night Sotheby’s held its highest grossing auction ever. The Contemporary Art Evening Sale totaled over $375 million, just over the projected high estimate of $374 million. Auctioneer Tobias Meyer rejoiced stating “I can hardly express how thrilled we are.” According to Sotheby’s, it has experienced a record-breaking year in 2012, with Contemporary Art sales totaling over $1 billion.

Rothko, No 1 (Royal Red and Blue) Courtesy Sotheby’s

Mark Rothko’s monumental No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue) stole the show, selling at over $75 million – the second highest total for the artist’s work a auction. The bidding for the vibrant Abstract Expressionist painting opened at $28 million and quickly jumped to $35 million. The interest expressed in the work was concentrated and aggressive; towards the end five bidders were competing for the painting. When the bids hit $60 million it ushered a reaction from the saleroom. After it finally hammered for $67 million, Tobias Meyer quipped, “Congrats, Charlie, this leads us to lot 20 and a glass of water.”

Jackson Pollock Number 4 1951, courtesy Sotheby’s

Francis Bacon Untitled (Pope) at Sotheby’s photo by ArtObserved

The other major record setting sale of the evening belonged to Pollock’s drip painting, Number 4, which sold for over $40 million – a record for the artist at auction. The artwork experienced consistent bidding, mostly in $500,000 increments.

Francis Bacon Untitled (Pope), Courtesy Sotheby’s

The third top lot was Francis Bacon’s Untitled (Pope) earning nearly $30 million. Following in fourth place was Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild from 1990, which sold for $17 million, within its anticipated “in excess of $16 million” estimate.

Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild 1990 courtesy Sotheby’s

Richter at Sotheby’s, photo by ArtObserved

Andy Warhol, Suicide, courtesy Sotheby’s

Warhol held the top fifth and sixth highest achieving artworks, as well as bringing in a combined total of $54 million for his artworks alone. Surprisingly, his seminal work on paper, Suicide, sold for $16 million – breaking the artist’s record for a work on paper at auction, and soaring over its projected high estimate of $8 million. In fact, the other two Warhols on paper, The Kiss (Bela Lugosi) and Cagney, both sold at above their high estimates. Warhol’s Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice) earned $15 million, also above its expected estimate of “in the region of $12 million.”

Warhol Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice) courtesy Sotheby’s

Several other artists broke their records at auction, namely Franz Kline, Hans Hoffman, Robert Motherwell, Wade Guyton, and Arshile Gorky.  Additionally, Franz Kline’s three small works on paper all fared very well at the sale – each one surged over its presale high estimate.

Of the 69 lots offered, 58 of them sold – a sell by lot value of 84.1%. More impressively, the sold by value was an unbelievable 95.6%. According to Sotheby’s, there was a strong contest in bidding with a deep international interest. Despite the previous week’s seemingly lackluster auctions, Sotheby’s pointed out that that the quality of the work was of a high caliber at tonight’s Contemporary Evening Sale.

-A. Roemer

WSJ: ["$75 Million Rothko Leads Sotheby's Record-Setting Sale"]