AO Auction Recap – New York: Christie’s Contemporary and Post-War Auction, May 13th, 2015

May 13th, 2015

Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Resting, via Art Observed
Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Resting (1994), via Art Observed

Christie’s has concluded the first days of Frieze week in style tonight, continuing its impressive performance over the course of the Contemporary Auction week with a strong sale tallying $658,532,000.  Selling 72 of the 85 lots offered, the sale saw several major records fall during the course of the evening, signaling the intense enthusiasm for the contemporary market both in the U.S. and abroad.

Andy Warhol, Colored Mona Lisa
Andy Warhol, Colored Mona Lisa (1963), via Art Observed

Robert Ryman, Bridge (1980), via Christie's
Robert Ryman, Bridge (1980), via Christie’s

The sale’s first lot, a dangling Giovanni Anselmo work, started the sale off in grand fashion, achieving an impressive $6,437,000 final price that was over eight times the work’s original estimate.  Modest prices then followed for the next several lots, including a pair of Robert Ryman works which came in at around $1.5 million each, and an Andy Warhol soup can painting that sold within estimate for $8,229,000.  Several lots later, however, a new record was set for Robert Rauschenberg, as work Johanson’s Painting flew out of the gate to achieve an $18,645,000, well over the work’s $6 million high.

Robert Rauschenberg, Johanson's Paiunting (1961), via Christie's
Robert Rauschenberg, Johanson’s Paiunting (1961), via Christie’s

Thirteen lots later, the next highlight of the sale came in, as Francis Bacon’s Portrait of Henrietta Moraes settled for a $47,765,000 final sale price.  One lot later, a flurried Gerhard Richter brought a $7,109,000 final price, falling within estimate.  After a Lichtenstein interior work sold quickly for $4,421,000, the Andy Warhol Colored Mona Lisa came to the block.  The work started quickly, bidding up to the $50 million mark before going to Larry Gagosian, talking into a cell phone as the work hammered for a $56,165,000 final.  Another Warhol, Fragile, passed in the next lot.

Rudolf Stingel, Untitled (1993), via Christie's
Rudolf Stingel, Untitled (1993), via Christie’s

Another major record came shortly after, as the evening’s cover lot, Lucian Freud’s “Big Sue” portrait, Benefits Supervisor Resting sold to London dealer Pilar Ordovas for an impressive figure of $56,165,000.  Several lots later, another Mark Rothko, one of several major works by the artist that have hit the auction room this week, continued Christie’s dominance this week, hammering just shy of the artist’s record to claim an impressive price of $81,925,000.  Several lots later, another Robert Ryman topped the artist’s auction record, as four bidders in the room went after the work even after the record had been surpassed, ultimately settling at a strong $20,605,000 final price.  Another strong sale came shortly after, as an untitled Cy Twombly brought a final price of $42,725,000, also picked up by Larry Gagosian, and a Franz Kline followed behind, claiming a $21,445,000 final price.

Cy Twombly, Untitled (1969), via Christie's
Cy Twombly, Untitled (1969), via Christie’s

Franz Kline, Steeplechase (1960), via Christie's
Franz Kline, Steeplechase (1960), via Christie’s

As the sale passed its halfway mark, the auction shifted towards a number of higher estimated works, yet results stayed somewhat predictable.  A Willem de Kooning passed achieved a $8,677,000 final, with a Brice Marden following behind with a final tally of $10,245,000.  Another late highlight came with the Jean-Michel Basquiat mural piece claimed a $37,125,000 final, sold by Tony Shafrazi, while several lots later, a Martin Kippenberger achieved $16,405,000, and a Jeff Koons followed up for $10,805,000.  A high priced Christopher Wool, clearly aiming for a record-breaker after the artist reset his high last evening, failed to sell.

The sale closed with a late auction record, as a Rudolf Stingel from 1993 brought the final price of $4,757,000.  Sales will conclude tomorrow night with a Christie’s Impressionist Sale and a Phillips Contemporary Sale, held concurrently.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Field Next to the Other Road (1981), via Christie's
Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Field Next to the Other Road (1981), via Christie’s

Mark Rothko, No. 10 (1958), via Christie's
Mark Rothko, No. 10 (1958), via Christie’s

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Christie’s Contemporary Evening Sale [Christie's]