AO Auction Recap – New York: Sotheby’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale, November 11th, 2015

November 11th, 2015

Cy Twombly, Untitled (New York City) (1968), via Sotheby's
Cy Twombly, Untitled (New York City) (1968), via Sotheby’s

Tonight Sotheby’s has logged its response to Christie’s moderate outing last evening, as the auction house’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale saw steady, albeit occasionally slow proceedings, bringing a final sales tally of $294,850,000 with 13 of the 57 lots offered going unsold.

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1965), via Sothebys

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1965), via Sothebys

The sale began with a Frank Stella lot, bearing strong similarity to the artist’s record-setting work which sold last week.  The piece saw a wealth of bids and rose quickly to double its estimate, selling at $1,210,000. A Mike Kelley also saw strong interest in the next lot, beating estimates quickly for a $3,070,000 final price.  A Rudolf Stingel also performed well, as slow bidding pushed the work to $3,550,000.  A Cy Twombly also performed well int the next lot, beating estimate for $4,506,000 after considered bids.  A Louise Bourgeois Spider was unable to live up to its companion work at Christie’s last evening, however, and became the evening’s first pass.  A Cady Noland also went unsold.

Jackson Pollock, Number 17, 1949 (1949), via Sotheby's
Jackson Pollock, Number 17, 1949 (1949), via Sotheby’s

The first tests of the evening came at lot 8, as Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale work pushed for the artist’s auction record, ultimately failing to garner much interest and just squeaking above the low estimate for a final price of $16,154,000.  A Jackson Pollock followed in the next lot, meeting estimate for a final of $22,930,000.  Shortly after, Andy Warhol’s Mao came to the block.  The first of the series depicting the communist leader, the work saw few bids, finishing with a final of $47,514,000. Another Lucio Fontana stalled shortly after, still bringing a final of $8,986,000, within estimate.  Prolonged bidding in the next lot pushed a second Frank Stella to a $5,402,000 final, and shortly after, Cy Twombly’s cover lot, a 1968 blackboard painting, shot out of the gate, starting at over $50 million, notching a new auction record for the artist at $70,530,000 to a phone bidder.  A Francis Bacon met estimates in the next lot for $15,650,000, as did a Roy Lichtenstein shortly after for $7,194,000, followed by a Basquiat which passed.

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale (1961), via Sotheby's
Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale (1961), via Sotheby’s

A number of lower-priced lots left a lull in the action, but resumed at lot 26, as a Robert Rauschenberg met a final price of $6,746,000, within estimate, and a Richard Diebenkorn passed in the next lot, followed by strong bidding for a Jean Dubuffet that topped its high estimate for $7,194,000.  After a Georg Baselitz passed, a Jean-Michel Basquiat exploded out from its $2.5mil high estimate to reach several multiples, finally selling for a final of $8,314,000.

Francis Bacon, Portrait (1962), via Sotheby's
Francis Bacon, Portrait (1962), via Sotheby’s

The sale slowed in following lots, as several passes and low-priced lots went by quickly, until Andy Warhol’s reversal series Marilyn Monroe work (perhaps a coy wink at Christie’s Four Marilyns sold last night) saw slow bids that ultimately pushed the work over its $4mil high estimate for a final of $4,506,000, and a Mark Tansey work that doubled estimate for $5,626,000.  Another Warhol, his Brillo painting, passed in the next lot.  Another Warhol also passed two lots later.  The sale left off with a few modest lots, including a Lucio Fontana which beat estimates for a final of $3,946,000, and an Alexander Calder that just topped estimate for $4,170,000.  Another Basquiat also surprised at lot 53, almost quadrupling its low estimate for a $5,066,000 final.

The November auctions conclude tomorrow night at Christie’s, drawing the marathon proceedings of the past two weeks to a close with a short Impressionist and Modern sale.  Art Observed will be covering live.

Andy Warhol, Mao (1972), via Sotheby's
Andy Warhol, Mao (1972), via Sotheby’s

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1987), via Sotheby's
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1987), via Sotheby’s

Read more:
Sotheby’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale [Sotheby's]