Wednesday - 20 August 2014

Biggest auction total ever as Contemporary bubble continues to expand

14 May 2014Written by Alex Capon

Christie’s posted a record total for any auction ever with a $745m (£462.7m) premium-inclusive total at their evening sale of post-war and Contemporary art in New York last night (Tuesday, May 13). It now begs the question: how much further can this boom keep going?

Adding to the sum generated the previous night from their If I Live I'll See You Tuesday auction (a specialist sale aimed at the darker side of Contemporary art), the combined figure for the two auctions at Christie's was $880m (£546.6m), selling 98% by value and 95% by lot.

Christie's reported bidders from 35 countries who together helped set 26 new artist records across the two sales, including for Alexander Calder and Frank Stella. The auction house also released premium-inclusive statistics showing two works selling for over $80m, four for over $50m, 12 for over $20m, 19 for over $10m and 86 for over $1m. In all, 80% of the lots were completely new to the auction market, they said.

Black Fire

The top lot of the Tuesday sale was Barnett Newman's abstract Black Fire I, which doubled the previous record for the artist at $75m (£46.6m) hammer, selling to an unnamed buyer.

Francis Bacon's Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards followed close behind at $72m (£44.7m) hammer, selling to an Asian private buyer.

The results put Newman's work at number nine in the top ten prices ever achieved at auction in sterling terms, pushing out the last remaining Old Master work, Rubens' Massacre of the Innocents, which took £45m (then $68.4m) at Sotheby's in London in July 2002.

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