NEW YORK—Christie’s $143 million sale of postwar and contemporary art was its second- highest ever, following the exceptional $157.4 million auction last November (ANL, 11/22/05). Of the 91 lots offered, an impressive 83 were sold. It was also Christie’s longest evening sale ever, owing to the inclusion of 26 sculptures by Donald Judd (1928-94) that were being sold by the Judd Foundation to raise funds. Some thought the trove contained too many works for the market to absorb at once, but Christie’s was confident enough to guarantee the collection—including several more works in its Part Two, or day, sale—for some $20 million. Christie’s also fulfilled a commitment to exhibit the Judd works for several weeks before the auction in the Simon & Schuster building nearby. The display drew praise from art critics and no doubt energized sales.
By the end of the Part One offerings, the guarantee had been surpassed, for a total of $24.5 million. Three works, all vertical “stacks,” tied for the top price, bringing $2.7 million each. One of these, Untitled, 1990 (90-14 Bernstein), fell to an Asian trade buyer, who claimed three other Judds along with two of the top sellers in the Part Two sale. Other buyers in this section: U.S. collector Stavros Merjos, who bought two works; and U.S. dealer Ginny Williams and Swiss dealer Doris Ammann, who acquired one each.
Warhol and de Kooning Shine
The remainder of the sale was overshadowed by Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning (the two artists claimed over $72 million of the Part One sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s). Warhol’s Small Torn Campbell’s Soup Can (Pepper Pot), 1962, carried a bold $10/15 million estimate struck from a guarantee deal with the consignor, dealer Irving Blum, but still sold. The buyer, at $11.8 million, was Larry Gagosian, bidding for collector Eli Broad, who was sitting next to him.
Warhol’s S&H Green Stamps (64 S&H Green Stamps), 1962, flew above the $1/1.5 million estimate, pursued by Gagosian and the Richard Gray Gallery before falling to an American collector on the phone for $5.2 million.
The same Asian trade buyer who acquired three Judds took Flowers, 1964, a collection of 16 small flower paintings by Warhol, for $3.9 million (estimate: $1.8/2.2 million); and an anonymous phone bidder paid a surprise $3 million for a celebrity portrait, Brigitte Bardot, 1974, from the Gunther Sachs collection (estimate: $/1.5 million).
Two de Koonings from the early 1960s were among the top three sellers. An untitled 1961 pink canvas, that had belonged to Virginia Dwan, went to the Richard Gray Gallery within estimate for $10.1 million; and a big oil on paper, Two Women (Study for Clamdigger), topped the high estimate of $4.5 million to sell for $5.7 million to L&M Arts. Further on, a small oil and graphite on paper, Asheville #1, 1949, doubled the top estimate of $800,000 to sell to Neal Meltzer for $1.6 million; and Woman, a 1951 graphite drawing from dealer Duncan MacGuigan’s collection (estimate: $350,000/450,000), brought $632,000—a record for a drawing by de Kooning.
Other star performers in postwar American art: Eva Hesse’s collaged painting An Ear in a Pond, 1965, bought by California collectors Norman and Norah Stone in 1992 for $93,700, was sold above its $1.5 million high estimate to Hauser & Wirth, representing the Hesse estate, for a record $2.25 million; and Morris Louis’ Floral V, 1959-60, was purchased by Dianne Vanderlip, curator of the Denver Art Museum, for a record $1.8 million. Vanderlip went on to buy Clyfford Still’s 1955-K, 1955, near the low estimate for $2.7 million.
The European postwar avant-garde was led by two Yves Kleins from the Gunther Sachs collection. Klein’s large blue-sponge relief RE 46 (SIII), 1960, sold near its low estimate for $4.7 million, while his action body painting ANT 127, 1960, fell to art adviser Andrew Ruth for a mid-estimate $4 million.
Records were also set for Piero Manzoni’s pleated canvas Achrome, 1959, which went to art adviser Hugues Joffre for $1.9 million (estimate: $800,000/ 1.2 million); and for Lucio Fontana’s all-gold Coupure, 1961, which sold above its $1.8 million high estimate for $2.7 million. This painting had been bought in 2001 for $996,000 by Andrea Caratsch, a partner in the de Pury and Luxembourg gallery in Zurich. Now consigned as “the property of a lady,” it was one of several works being sold by Louise MacBain, formerly CEO of Phillips, de Pury and Luxembourg (now Phillips, de Pury and Company). When contacted by e-mail, a spokesperson for MacBain said she was selling “to update her collection.”
Other works from the same source, all guaranteed, were Klein’s all-gold MG 20, 1959, bought in 2001 for $670,000, which sold for $1.5 million (estimate: $800,000/1.2 million); Andreas Gursky’s Prada III, 1998, obtained at Phillips in 2001 for $310,000, which took $408,000, above the $400,000 high estimate, to art adviser Kim Heirston; and Frank Stella’s Pratfall, 1974, purchased in 2003 for $615,000, which made $1.7 million (estimate: $500,000/700,000).
Contemporary American art was led by Jeff Koons’ bronze Aqualung, 1985, from the Daros Collection, Zurich, which fell to Gagosian for
$4.6 million, comfortably above the high estimate of $3.5 million. The price far exceeds another example from the edition of three sold in 2002 for less than half that amount. A third piece from the edition (possibly the same one), is now on view at an exhibit of the François Pinault collection at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice (April 30-Oct. 1).
Records in this category were established for Mike Kelley when his series of photographs Ahh . . . Youth, 1991, No. 7 from an edition of 10, sold for $688,000, more than twice the high estimate of $320,000, to collector Peter Brant; and for Richard Prince, whose joke painting Untitled (Good News, Bad News), 1989, fetched an above-estimate $1.36 million from Gagosian.
Contemporary German painting was represented with three works from the collection of Charles Saatchi. Dirk Skreber’s Yellow Locomotive, 1999, sold for a record $497,600 to Joffre, surpassing its $300,000 high estimate; Franz Ackermann’s Promotion No. 1, 2001, fell to a commission bid for $408,000, above its $350,000 high estimate; and Martin Kippenberger’s diptych Design for the Improvement of Backstroke in Rio I & II, 1986, made $598,400, just below its low estimate of $600,000. Saatchi also sold Marlene Dumas’ Feathered Stola, 2000—which he had bought in 2003 for $300,000—for a hefty $1.2 million (estimate: $400,000/600,000).
British art at Christie’s broke two records, though neither attracted much bidding. David Hockney’s A Neat Lawn, 1967—bought for $660,000 in 1988 by Richard Schlagman, today the owner of Phaidon Press—went to the Asian buyer of the Judd pieces for $3.6 million (estimate: $3.5/4.5 million); and Damien Hirst’s Away From the Flock, Divided, 1995, bought from a gallery in Naples, Italy, in 1996 for a reported $75,000 by Italian gallerist Massimo Laura, fell for $3.4 million, topping the low estimate of $3 million, to L&M Arts, understood by informed sources to be bidding for the Mexican collector David Martinez.
Other buyers at the sale: collector Aby Rosen, who bought Christopher Wool’s 1990 Untitled (W24) (Run Dog Eat Dog), last sold in 2002 for $265,000, for $1.1 million (estimate:$1/1.5 million); dealer Matthew Marks, who took Charles Ray’s Ink Drawing, 1988, for $665,600, nearly double the high estimate of $350,000; and Alberto Mugrabi, who bought Warhol’s Four Jackies, 1964, for $1.36 million (estimate: $1/1.5 million).
A total of 40 guaranteed lots at Christie’s had a a combined low estimate of $52.7 million; the guaranteed properties sold for a combined figure of $75.9 million.