Sotheby’s evening sale of Contemporary art in New York on November 13 achieved the highest total for any auction in the company’s history.
The $331.2m (£216.5m) hammer total beat the previous
house record of $321m (£172m) set by their Contemporary art sale in
Seven lots were knocked down for over $10m (£6.56m) as bidders
contested some of the most sought-after pieces of American abstract
art ever offered in the saleroom. These included the top lot of the
sale, Mark Rothko's No.1 (Royal Red and
Blue) which sold for $67m (£43.8m).
Knocked down to an anonymous phone buyer, it sold above the
$35m-50m estimate. The price stands as the second highest at
auction for the artist only behind Orange, Red, Yellow
which made $77.5m (£50m) at Christie's New York in May.
The latest Rothko was the ninth highest selling lot ever sold at
The work itself was over 9ft (2.74m) high and was one of eight
oils on canvas from 1954 selected for Rothko's landmark solo show
at the Art Institute of Chicago in the same year.
Also in Sotheby's sale were eight lots from the collection of
Milwaukee couple Sidney and Dorothy Kohl that added a cool $89.9m
(£58.8m) to the total. The consignment included Jackson
Pollock's Number 4, 1951, a trademark drip
painting on canvas.
Estimated at $25m-35m, it was subject to an 'irrevocable bid'
before the auction, meaning it was always going to sell. On the
night, however, it drew a number of interested parties over its
lower estimate and also sold to an anonymous phone buyer at $36m
This was an auction record for the artist, although works by
Pollock have changed hands privately for substantially more.
From the same source was Willem de Kooning's
Abstraction from c.1949 that took $17.5m (£11.4m), also
selling on the phone, and Clyfford
Still's 1948-H that sold to an American
private buyer below estimate at $8.75m (£5.72m).
From a separate source was one of Francis
Bacon's paintings of a screaming pope which had been
in the same private collection since 1975. Dating from c.1954,
it was one of the earlier versions of the artist's 45 works
relating to Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X.
Estimated at £18-25m, it drew four bidders before it was knocked
down to an anonymous phone buyer at $26.5m. Only one other version
has made more, a 1962 study that sold for $47m (£23.5m) in the same
rooms in May 2007.
£1 = $1.53