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Celebrity Cachet Fuels High Prices For Dennis Hopper’s Art

Artwork from the collection of the late actor Dennis Hopper was the star attraction of Christie’s “Interiors” sale in New York on Jan. 11, accounting for $1.95 million—more than half the sale’s $3.4 million total proceeds.

NEW YORK—Artwork from the collection of the late actor Dennis Hopper was the star attraction of Christie’s “Interiors” sale in New York on Jan. 11, accounting for $1.95 million—more than half the sale’s $3.4 million total proceeds. Including other works from the collection sold in Christie’s fall sales of contemporary art (ANL, 11/30/10), Hopper’s trove realized over $14 million, clearing the $9 million/13 million aggregate estimate for the collection. The highest price for a single offering was fetched by an untitled 1987 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that sold for $5.8 million (estimate: $5 million/7 million) at the New York evening contemporary sale on Nov. 10.

As a result of a legal challenge mounted by Hopper’s estranged wife, Victoria Duffy Hopper, Christie’s was compelled to remove 32 works from its Jan. 11 sale, but the auction was not otherwise impacted.

The top lot was a 1972 Mao screenprint by Andy Warhol that soared past its $20,000/30,000 estimate selling for $302,500 to a U.S. collector. Adding to the work’s allure was the fact that it is marked by two small bullet holes, one over Mao’s left eye and the other in the background space above his right shoulder. According to the catalogue, Hopper fired two gunshots at the work and later showed the result to Warhol. The bullet hole over the eye and the “warning shot” are circled and labeled as such. “The two artists collaborated on marking the warning shot and the bullet hole on the front of the frame,” according to Christie’s catalogue. The attribution for the work is given as “Andy Warhol (1928–1987) in collaboration with Dennis Hopper (1936–2010).”

Collectors were “intrigued by the stories behind the works,” said Cathy Elkies, director of iconic collections at Christie’s. “Andy Warhol’s Mao print with gunshot holes inflicted by the Hollywood icon himself, was the top lot…establishing a new record at auction for a single print from the iconic series.”

The second-highest lot was another Warhol print, Marilyn, 1967, which more than tripled the high estimate of $60,000 to sell for $206,500 to an Asian collector.

Other top prices included $96,100 for Bruce Conner’s fabric, printed paper, plastic, string, acorn, gouache and glass on masonite Picnic on the Grass, 1962 (estimate: $10,000/15,000); $56,250 for an untitled 1970 oil on canvas by Theodore Stamos, also estimated at $10,000/15,000; and $47,500 for an acrylic on plywood, I Bury Hatchets, 1985, by Charles Arnoldi (estimate: $15,000/20,000).

Christie’s senior specialist Francine Wolterbeek said that “two venerable California museums acquired works” from the Hopper collection. The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, bought John Valadez’s oil on canvas Car Show, 2001, for $7,500 on an estimate of $6,000/8,000 and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, bought Llyn Foulkes’s The Scene that is God’s Mouth, 1962, a collage (charcoal, oil and printed paper on paper), for $10,625 (estimate: $3,000/5,000).

Other lots from the Hopper collection included an acrylic on book covers by Ed Ruscha, VOWEL #73 (O), VOWEL #77 (E), VOWEL #79 (Y), 1996, which sold for $32,500 to a European dealer, and an untitled graphite on paper, 1988, by Gerhard Richter, which was estimated at $6,000/8,000 and sold for $32,500 to a European collector.

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