ARTnewsletter Archive

Second ‘First Open’ Is a Magnet For Young, Eclectic Collectors

Christie’s took in $6.3 million on Sept. 23 for the second “First Open” sale, an auction that targets new collectors. Along with a heavy focus on recent works by young, up-and- coming names, the auction also features moderately priced works by established artists.

NEW YORK—Christie’s took in $6.3 million on Sept. 23 for the second “First Open” sale, an auction that targets new collectors. Along with a heavy focus on recent works by young, up-and- coming names, the auction also features moderately priced works by established artists.

Of 262 works on offer, 84 percent, or 221, found buyers. By value, the auction was 88 percent sold. While the total pales in comparison with recent $100 million evening sales of contemporary art at Christie’s, the auction is increasingly being viewed as an accessible entry to the contemporary market for new collectors. The total was an improvement on the $5.5 million earned by the auction house at the sale held last March (see ANL, 3/29/05).

Prices were strong across the board for both recent works by young artists and older works by established masters the likes of Jackson Pollock (1912-56) and Dan Flavin (1933-96).

The top lot of the sale was Flavin’s Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake), a vertical fluorescent light installation featuring red, pink and yellow tubes that was executed in 1965. Estimated at $100,000/150,000, the piece earned $307,200.

David Hockney’s Zanzibar with Postcards and Kiosk, a 1980 pastel on paper, sold for $204,000 to an American collector (estimate: $60,000/80,000). A figurative painting by Pollock, Cotton Pickers, circa 1934-36, took $144,000 from a U.S. buyer (estimate: $40,000/60,000).

Mid-Level Sales Brisk

Andrew Massad, Christie’s postwar and contemporary art specialist said the auction results “clearly reflect a continued and growing demand for works by young as well as veteran artists that fit comfortably into a mid-level collecting budget.”

Among younger artists for whom there are waiting lists at galleries, Julie Mehretu’s 1999 work Untitled (Bomb) fetched $38,400 (estimate: $18,000/25,000). Mehretu was recently named a recipient of a $500,000 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant (see ANL, 9/27/05). Barnaby Furnas’ Paladin III, a 2002 watercolor, brought $45,600 (estimate: $15,000/20,000). An untitled watercolor by Kai Althoff, which was featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2002-03 show “Drawing Now: Eight Propositions,” more than doubled its $15,000/20,000 estimate to earn $48,000. However, another untitled work by Althoff, a double-sided letter with a drawing, estimated at $8,000/12,000, failed to find a buyer.

An artist’s record was set for Peter Howson when his Sisters of Mercy, 1989, went for an over-estimate $186,000 (estimate: $80,000/120,000), and for Gene Davis when Flamingo, 1965, soared past its $8,000/12,000 estimate to fetch $84,000.

Three works by Liza Lou, known for her elaborately beaded objects, all found buyers: Cup and Saucer, 2000, earned $22,800 (estimate: $10,000/15,000); Cigar and Ashtray, 1996, brought $10,200 (estimate: $3,000/4,000); and Orange Sock, 1995, brought $6,600 (estimate: $7,000/9,000).

“From Jackson Pollock to Barnaby Furnas, the market showed a strong appetite,” commented Massad. Among other top-selling lots was an untitled standing mobile, circa 1959, by Alexander Calder (1898-1976), which brought $84,000 (estimate: $70,000/90,000).

Two sculptures by Harry Bertoia (1915-78) also realized strong prices: Sounding Sculpture, circa 1972-78, fetched $84,000 (estimate: $20,000/30,000); and an untitled metal sculpture using copper wire and sheet metal sculpture, circa the 1950s, took $78,000 (estimate:$12,000/18,000).

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