Another night come and gone in New York, and another impressive evening auction in the books as Sotheby’s concludes its Contemporary and Post-War Evening Sale this Tuesday night with a final tally of $379,676,000, failing to top Christie’s impressive auction from one night prior despite some impressive sales records of its own. The 65-lot sale saw 8 of the works go unsold, for a final sell-through rate of 87.7%, a hard figure considering last evening’s single unsold lot out of 35.
Mark Bradford, Smear (2015), via Sotheby’s
The sale began with a Mark Bradford work, Smear, positioned up front ostensibly to draw eager bidders looking to capitalize on the artist’s recent market returns. The work, sold to benefit MOCA Los Angeles, blew out of the gate, reaching a record price of $4,394,000 in a short time.
Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Into and Behind the Green Eyes of the Tiger Monkey Face 43.18) (2011), via Sotheby’s
Another record fell in the next lot, as Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Into and Behind the Green Eyes of the Tiger Monkey Face 43.18) sold for $6,522,000, just topping his previous high price. A Cy Twombly performed well shortly after, with a $5,066,000 final tally, as did an Ed Ruscha which beat estimate for $5,402,000. By comparison, Andy Warhol’s Superman was an early surprise, beating an $8 million high for a final of $14 million , to an unidentified collector. “Superman, ” joked the auctioneer. “That’s what I’ll write here.”
Sigmar Polke, Dschungel (1967), via Sotheby’s
The first marquee lot came next, a massive Christopher Wool canvas bearing the words Riot, erased once and repeated again over the surface. Estimated at $12,000,000 to $18,000,000, the work got off to a slow start, but continued to creep upwards on sporadic bidding, reaching its high estimate and beyond, bringing Wool a new auction record of $29,930,000. Another auction record came immediately after, as Sigmar Polke doubled his previous record and then some, achieving $27,130,000 for Jungle.
Roy Lichtenstein, The Ring (Engagement) (1962), via Sotheby’s
Three lots later, the Mark Rothko from the Mellon Collection started strong, but failed to attract bidders towards the high end of its $40-$60 million estimate, eventually settling at $46,450,000. Several unexceptional lots followed, leading towards the Roy Lichtenstein cover lot, The Ring. Yet the large-scale composition featuring a shock of red and white failed to live up to expectations, starting at $33 million before petering out at $41,690,000.
Mark Rothko, Untitled (Yellow and Blue) (1954), via Sotheby’s
There were few surprises as the sale continued through its middle portion. A Willem de Kooning, Yellow Woman, brought a $6,410,000 final, just inside estimate, and Warhol’s Mao performed to a similar tune, just beating its low mark for a $14,474,000 final, before a Robert Ryman was the first pass of the evening, failing to reach the $5 million low mark. The Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild was also something of a disappointment, seeing little interest before selling for $28,250,000. Shortly after, Danh Vo set a new auction record with his Alphabet (L), selling for a modest $700,000.
Helen Frankenthaler, Saturn Revisited (1964), via Sotheby’s
Danh Vo, Alphabet (L) (2011), via Sotheby’s
The pace got even faster as the sale proceeded. A Basquiat from 1981 brought in a final tally of $11,450,000, beating its $10 million high, and a Jackson Pollock also met expectations with a $18,282,000 final. Two lots later, an Yvves Klein sponge sculpture met the low estimate, selling for $8,986,000. Another sale highlight, a Richard Diebenkorn Ocean Park work met estimates for $8,986,000, while the next lot, a Franz Kline work, trudged slowly past its $8 million high estimate to reach $9.2 million. Another de Kooning sold shortly after, below its $8 million low estimate, and another boldfaced Ed Ruscha went unsold in the next lot.
Andy Warhol, Superman (1981), via Art Observed
Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (1992), via Sotheby’s
The tail end of the sale was distinguished by a number of low-priced works, with few surprises and several passes, including a Cindy Sherman print from 1983 and a Lee Ufan work, with the exception of an unexpected new record for Helen Frankenthaler, achieving $2,830,000.
The sales continue tomorrow at Christie’s, where the auction house will look to continue its strong performance this week.
Andy Warhol, Mao (1973), via Sotheby’s
— D. Creahan
Sotheby’s Contemporary and Post-War Evening Sale [Sotheby's]