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Strong International Presence Marks Mid-Season Contemporaries

Broad international demand boosted prices at the Christie’s and Sotheby’s mid-season postwar and contemporary art sales immediately following the Armory Show on Manhattan’s West Side (see story, p. 1).

NEW YORK—Broad international demand boosted prices at the Christie’s and Sotheby’s mid-season postwar and contemporary art sales immediately following the Armory Show on Manhattan’s West Side (see story, p. 1).

The Christie’s First Open sale on April 1 realized $10.1 million, with 220, or 80 percent, of the 275 lots on offer finding buyers.

A day later, on April 2, Sotheby’s mid-season sale of contemporary art fetched $12.6 million for a much larger offering of 459 works; of these 350, or 76 percent, were sold. Last fall’s sale, of similar size, had achieved $13.1 million.

And on March 31, a day after the Armory Show wrapped up, a Phillips, de Pury & Company sale of contemporary art, “Under the Influence,” took $5.2 million, falling under the estimate of $6.2/8.8 million, with 229 of 354 lots landing buyers.

At Christie’s the $10.1 million total was down slightly from the $12.2 million First Open auction last September (ANL, 10/2/07), partly owing to that sale’s considerably larger offering of 333 lots.

At Christie’s, Fewer Lots This Time Around

Asked whether the decision to narrow the number of offerings was intentional, Christie’s vice president and specialist in charge of the sale Zach Miner told ARTnewsletter, “We have been making a conscious effort to bring forward a well-curated exhibition and sale.” The auction “brought to the market new works appealing to an increasingly international audience,” adds Miner, noting that eight new artists’ records were set.

Christie’s top lot was Sean Scully’s oil Hiddensee, 1985, which sold for $457,000 to an American collector (estimate: $250,000/350,000). Then came a color-coupler print by Andreas Gursky, Aletschgletscher, 1993, which fell to a European collector for $361,000 (estimate: $200,000/300,000).

A record was set for Pakistani artist Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969) when a triptych in acrylic on linen, Veil ’n Trail, 1997, soared past its $15,000/20,000 estimate to bring $325,000 from an Asian dealer. But Albert Oehlen’s oil Auge im Auge, 1990, earned $265,000, below its $300,000 low estimate.

Most of the top lots at Christie’s achieved solid prices within the expected range, such as Yoshitomo Nara’s ABC, 1998, an acrylic on linen depicting a pouting cartoon-character girl with pigtails. It went for $169,000 to an Asian collector against an estimated $120,000/180,000. Miner noted records set for younger artists, including Laylah Ali ($29,800 for an untitled gouache on paper, 2000), Frank Benson ($7,500 for Luscious Leftovers, 1998) and Jonathan Messe ($67,000 for a 2004 oil on canvas, Mother with the Holy Book . . .). The results, says Miner, “demonstrate the health and moderation that are the hallmarks of a robust market.”

At Sotheby’s, Collectors Dominate Bidding

As at Christie’s the day before, international bidding from European, South American, Asian and American buyers was prevalent at Sotheby’s, especially for the sale’s highest-priced lots. “Nine of the top ten lots were purchased by private collectors with a diverse client base all over the world,” commented Sotheby’s specialist Jennifer Roth.

Three works by Andy Warhol figured among the top lots at Sotheby’s, including the sale leader—the screenprint Eva Mudocci (After Munch), 1984—which fetched $313,000, generously past its high estimate of $200,000. Another screenprint, Hammer and Sickle, won $277,000 (estimate: $80,000/120,000).

Work by Warhol’s fellow Pop artist Keith Haring also fared well. After strong bidding, says Roth, his 1984 Untitled, in gouache on a heart-shaped foam core, flew past its $80,000 high estimate to take $217,000. An acrylic on canvas by Sam Francis, Instinct, 1987, brought $253,000, comfortably above its $150,000 high estimate. Roth noted “strong international bidding for 11 works by Sam Francis, all of which sold.”

A record was set for the Argentinian artist Luis Tomasello (b. 1915) when Atmosphere Chromoplastique 199, a painted-wood construction, made $169,000, more than triple the $50,000 high estimate. The $157,000 paid by a European collector for M 10, a 1969 oil by Polish artist Wojciech Fangor (b. 1922), also set a record at auction for the artist.

Condo Takes Top Honors at Phillips

Over at Phillips, records were claimed for more than 40 artists, though many were modest sums for those with short auction track records.

The highest price was the $241,000 paid for George Condo’s 1991 oil Memories of Spain (estimate: $200,000/300,000). It was followed by Steve Parrino’s Monster Monster, 1986, in red acrylic on canvas, which earned $229,000 (estimate: $200,000/300,000).

Among records set was the $151,000 given for Massimo Vitali’s diptych photo Rosignano, 2004 (estimate: $54,000/70,000), and Martin Kobe’s untitled 2002 abstract acrylic and oil for $157,000 (estimate: $150,000/200,000).

Among other top prices at Phillips was the $121,000 (estimate: $100,000/150,000) given for Banksy’s circa 2006 installation British Phone Booth, a partly buried, bright-red booth surrounded by large chunks of concrete debris; and the $109,000 paid for Matthias Weischer’s 2000 painting Wurm (estimate: $80,000/120,000).

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