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    Private Collections Fuel High Prices at First Open

    As international contemporary art fairs cropped up all over Manhattan last week, auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury & Company added to the activity with their own middle-market sales of contemporary art.

    NEW YORK—As international contemporary art fairs cropped up all over Manhattan last week, auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury & Company added to the activity with their own middle-market sales of contemporary art.

    Christie’s First Open sale, which is targeted at younger and newer buyers, was held on March 7, and took in $10.6 million for 252 lots offered. Of these, 196, or 78 percent, were sold. By value, the auction was 86 percent sold.

    The sale got a boost from the second group of artworks offered from the collection of California software magnate Peter Norton. Last November, Christie’s staged a single-owner evening auction of works from his collection that sparked competitive bidding and resulted in a total of $26.8 million, far surpassing the estimate of $11.2 million/15.9 million. Demand was also evident for the second offering here, where 45 works fetched another $2.5 million.

    The highest of these was Jim Hodges’s Here’s Where We Will Stay, a tapestry of printed nylon, painted chiffon and silk head scarves with thread, embroidery and sequins, executed in 1995. The piece sold for $482,500, falling within its estimate of $400,000/600,000, to a US dealer.

    The second-highest result for a work from the Norton collection, acquired soon after it was executed, was the $266,500 given for a Fred Tomaselli work, Multiple Landscape, 1995, composed of saccharin, acrylic, wax crayon and resin on panel. It was estimated at $150,000/200,000. And Takashi Murakami’s Forest of DOB, 1995, a large signature work by the artist that features his colorful cartoon imagery, soared past its $40,000/60,000 estimate, to sell for $254,500, to a private collector.

    The highest lot of the overall sale was a work from the Reader’s Digest collection by Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes. No Azul, 1997, sold for a final price of $626,500, compared with an estimate of $150,000/200,000. It was bought by a South American private buyer, according to Christie’s.

    Christie’s head of the sale, Sara Friedlander said the sale set “a positive, confident tone for the season ahead. Once again the market witnessed aggressive, international bidding for exceptionally high-quality works that appeared fresh to the market.” Also sold from the Reader’s Digest collection was Glenn Ligon’s oil on canvas triptych, Prologue Series #1 (Text from Ralph Ellison), 1991, which took $350,500, compared with an estimate of $50,000/70,000.

    Other top sellers included Pop artist Edward Ruscha’s word painting Blue Scream, 1964, also from a private collection, which sold for $554,500, far surpassing the $150,000/200,0000 estimate. Also dating from the 1960s was Willem de Kooning’s untitled abstract oil on paper, ca. 1960s, which sold for $338,500, but missed the estimate of $400,000/600,000. It had been in a private collection since 1971, and was bought by a US dealer.

    Among more recent artworks, an untitled inkjet print on linen by Wade Guyton, executed in 2006, fetched $350,500, compared with an estimate of $200,000/300,000, from a private American collector.

    An oil portrait by Elizabeth Peyton, Marc Webber, 1998, sold for $290,500, near the high end of the $200,000/300,000 presale estimate. And David Hammons’s Untitled (Body Print), 1991, pigment and inkjet on paper, cleared the high end of the $100,000/150,000 estimate, to sell for $194,500.

    Friedlander noted that the sale hosted the most online bidders ever for a contemporary sale “signifying a new era in bidding and buying for this department.”

    As ARTnewsletter was published, Phillips’s two sales held on March 8, “Under the Influence,” as well as an evening contemporary art sale, had realized $7.2 million in total.

    “Under the Influence” brought in $2.9 million against an estimate of $2.6 million/3.7 million, while the evening sale realized $4.3 million, against an estimate of $4.7 million/6.9 million. The Sotheby’s sale on March 9, which offered 308 lots, carried a presale estimate of $8.2 million/11.5 million.