Following the record setting sale for Picasso’s 1932 masterpiece “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” last week ($106,482,500); Collectors continue to spend big at Christie’s Post-War and contemporary art auction on Tuesday, led by Jasper Johns’ pop art painting “Flag” from a collection that had belonged to best-selling author Michael Crichton, which sold for a record $28.64 million to New York dealer Michael Altman; becoming the second most expensive work of art by a living artist ever to sell at auction, beaten only by Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, which sold for $33.5 million in May 08. Four determined bidders tangled for the Jasper Johns’ Flag over a period of two minutes. Dated 1960 to 1966, Flag was purchased by Crichton directly from the artist in 1974, the same year that the author’s Terminal Man entered bookstores.

Jasper Johns, Flag, Price realized: $28,642,500

The final figure for the three day sale reached a sum of $231.9 million, including a session in which the first 56 lots sold in a row, many of them far above the high estimate. Only five of the 79 works offered failed to find takers. This represents a negligible 6 percent failure rate by lot, and 2 percent by estimate sales value, particularly remarkable in a field widely perceived to be more fragile than most.

This remarkable total was powered by a trove of 31 choice works from the estate of Michael Crichton, the author of bestselling science-fiction thrillers like Jurassic Park, who died of throat cancer in 2008. In total the Crichton sale fetched a handsome $93.3 million – exceeding pre-sale expectations by $23.7 million, making it one of the most successful single-owner sales ever. Fifty-one of the evening’s 79 works offered sold for over one million dollars, and of those, 5 cracked the 10 million dollar mark.

Marc Porter, chairman of Christie’s America, said: “There are a lot of rich people in the world, even after 2008, who feel the art market is a great inflation hedge.”

“That’s why you see so many bidders: they’re comfortable spending money.”

While foreign buying has helped drive the market’s recovery, nearly three-quarters of the buyers were American, as expected for what Christie’s described as “a quintessentially American sale.”

Amy Cappellazzo, Christie’s international co-head of post-war and contemporary art, said the market, seemingly well on its way to recovery, now seemed “more sober.”

“There’s not this irrational exuberance,” she said, comparing it to the late years of the boom before the economic crash in 2008. “It’s strong, but selective.”

Well-heeled collectors showed enthusiasm, and readiness to pay, for rare works like Johns’ “Flag” and Andy Warhol’s “Silver Liz,” which fetched more than $18 million.

“What was so fascinating to us was to see so many new buyers,” said Brett Gorvy, Christie’s post-war and contemporary co-head.

Andy Warhol, Silver Liz, Price realized: USD $18,338,500

Yves Klein, Anthropométrie “Le Buffle” , Price realized: USD $12,402,500

Roy Lichtenstein, Untitled Composition, Price realized: USD $10,162,500

Roy Lichtenstein, Two Apples, Price realized: USD $2,210,500

Gerhard Richter, Kopf (Skizze), Price realized: USD $2,322,500

CY Twombly, Untitled (New York City), Price realized: USD $1,082,500

Ed Ruscha, Texas Hairspray, Price realized: USD $722,500

Ed Ruscha, We Few Open Book, Price realized: USD $902,500

Ed Ruscha, Boulangerie , Price realized: USD $1,142,500

Yayoi Kusama, No GA White, Price realized: USD $3,330,500

Mark Rothko, Untitled, Price realized: USD $4,786,500

Christopher Wool, Blue Fool, Price realized: USD $5,010,500

Jean Michel Basquiat,
Self-Portrait as a heel,
Price realized: USD $5,906,500

Richard Prince, Untitled (cowboy), Price realized: USD $602,500

Richard Prince, Ranting and Raving, Price realized: USD $722,500

Jeff Koons, Jim Beam – Model A Ford Pick-Up Truck , Price realized: USD $602,500

Roy Lichtenstein, Pistol, Price realized: USD $158,500

Richard Prince, Untitled (Fashion), Price realized: USD $362,500

Related Links:

Postwar and Contemporary Sale Is Stunning Success at Christie’s – NY Times

Crichton’s $29 Million Jasper Johns Flag Boosts Christie’s Sale – Bloomberg

Contemporary Art Sale in NY sees more big prices – Reuters

[Christie’s Post-War Contemporary Evening Auction results]

[Christie’s Post-War Contemporary Morning Auction results]

[Christie’s Post-War Contemporary Afternoon Auction results]