The contemporary art market continued to soar at Sotheby’s evening sale on Wednesday as 50 of the 53 lots offered sold for a rousing $189,969,000, $28 million above its high estimate, a big jump from the auction house’s contemporary art sale last year which managed just $47 million.
Despite having less estate on the market in comparison to Christie’s 79 lot sale that included Michael Crichton’s collection; Sotheby’s managed to sell the two most expensive paintings of the week and set five artist records, with sell-through rates hitting a marksmanlike 94 percent by lot and 98 percent by value. Of the 50 lots that sold, 39 went for more than a million dollars, and, of those, two exceeded $30 million and five made over $7 million.
Analysts said the latest resurgence reflects a growing determination among the super-wealthy to invest in art, avoiding the hazards of the stockmarket and seeking a hedge against inflation.
On the night of the auction, all eyes were on Andy Warhol’s Self-Portrait “Ghost” painting, which sold for $32,562,500, a new record for a Warhol self portrait at auction; more than doubled its $10 million-$15 million estimate, surpassing Christie’s biggest sale of Jasper Johns Flag for $29 million on Tuesday night. Its owner, the fashion designer Tom Ford, was able to watch via the internet from his London home as six bidders pushed up the price as they vied to buy it.
“This Warhol was my favorite work in the sale,” says Tobias Meyer, Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art and the evening’s auctioneer. “It will be seen as a very smart buy in the future.”
Meyer explained that the world art market had not previously considered Warhol’s work from the 1980′s as such an important part of his career. Not anymore. “However, this is a great, iconic painting by the artist,” says Meyer. “It is as important as the early “Car Crash” series from the 1960′s. It is like looking at late Monet. Water Lilies is considered a late work, and now it is considered great.”
“If you do your homework, there are only six in the world like this one, which is the largest size Warhol ever made of these paintings, three of the others are in museums and can never been sold. At the end of the day, there are only three in private hands, including this one, so it is very limited.”
The last one, in red, sold in May 2002 to super-collector Peter Brant at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg in New York for USD $3,192,500. Other works by Warhol also achieved strong prices on the night, including Four Flowers which sold for $7,642,500, above the high estimate of $7 million and Statue of Liberty, which sold for $4,330,500.
Mark Rothko’s Untitled painting from 1961 also soared over the high estimate to sell for $31,442,500.
Mark Rothko, Untitled (1961), Price realized: USD $31,442,500
Andy Warhol, Flowers (1964), Price realized: USD $7,642,500.
Roy Lichtenstein, Expressionist Head, Price realized: USD $4,282,500
Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1984), Price realized: USD $2,658,500
Willem De Kooning, Seated Woman on a Bench (1972), Price realized: USD $3,442,500
Christopher Wool, Untitled (1997), Price realized: USD $1,314,5003
Jeff Koons, Jim Beam – J.B. Turner Engine (1986), Price realized: USD $2,322,500
Gerhard Richter, Farbtefel, Price realized: USD $782,500
Richard Serra, Corner Prop (1976), Price realized: USD $1,986,500