THE latest series of contemporary art auctions in New York provided some further evidence of confidence returning at the top end of the market.
Sotheby's saw a $117.1m (£74.6m) hammer total
at their evening sale on November 11, above the $69m-99m pre-sale
estimate and following on from their $197m (£120m) evening auction
of Impressionist and Modern art the week before.
They sold arguably the most important Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
left in private hands - 200 One Dollar Bills, from his
first series of silkscreen paintings made in 1962.
It saw some sensational saleroom action. Estimated at $8m-12m,
auctioneer Tobias Meyer opened at $6m, but a bidder in the room
immediately jumped in at $12m. Five further bidders carried it
upwards, until it was knocked down at $39m (£24.8m) to an anonymous
buyer on the telephone.
This was the second highest price for the artist, but still some
way behind Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) from
1963, which sold for $64m (£33.9m) at Christie's New York as the
contemporary art market approached its zenith in May 2007.
Sotheby's saw further works by Warhol, Jasper Johns (b.1930),
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) and Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) all
went over $5m, and only two of the 54 lots were unsold.
Christie's evening sale of contemporary art in
New York on November 10 made $63.9m (£40.7m) hammer against
pre-sale hopes of $61.5m-88m. Of the 46 lots, 39 got away, although
the two potential stars, Brother Sausage by Jean-Michel
Basquiat (1960-1988) estimated at $9m-12m and Warhol's Tunafish
Disaster estimated at $6m-8m, both failed to sell.
However, the top lot brought strong bidding. Peter Doig's
(b.1959) Reflection (What Does Your Soul Look Like),
estimated at $4m-6m, saw five parties compete for it, including Jay
Jopling of the London dealership White Cube. It sold to an
anonymous telephone bidder at $9m (£5.73m).
The Christie's sale also included Jeff Koons' (b.1955) wooden
sculpture Vase of Flowers from a 1991 edition of three.
Unusually since the downturn, the vendor - reportedly the publisher
Benedikt Taschen - had been given a guarantee either by Christie's
or a third party.
Having last sold at auction at Christie's in London in June 2000
for a premium-inclusive £663,750, here it was estimated at $4m-6m
and sold to anonymous buyer for $5m (£3.18m)
Christie's contemporary art day sales made a combined $36.1m
(£23m), while Sotheby's took $36.2m (£23.1m) for their equivalent
When added to the Impressionist and Modern series, this meant
the final total generated by the big two for the fortnight of sales
in New York was $513.28m (£326.9m). This was down from $635m
(£423m) at last year's equivalent sales.
By Alex Capon
£1 = $1.57