NEW YORK—Christie’s opened its part one sale on Nov. 8 with 26 lots from the collection of software magnate Peter Norton, and all of the works found buyers, for a total of $26.8 million against an estimate of $11.2 million/15.9 million.
It was the first time that Norton had sold work at auction, and the result confirmed the status with which he is held in the collecting community. Norton, who began collecting in California in the 1980s, characterizes the art that excites him as “relatively new, challenging, conceptually-based and with a strong bias for artists that come out of that very interesting cultural milieu that is now called Afro-American….”
Nine records were broken during the sale, and sculpture featured prominently. These were led by Paul McCarthy’s 86-inch-tall fiberglass figure, Tomato Head (Green), 1994, which sold for $4.6 million (estimate: $1 million/1.5 million), double the previous auction record, to the artist’s dealer, Iwan Wirth. A glass cot, Silence, 1994, by London-based, Lebanese artist Mona Hatoum, sold for $470,500 (estimate: $80,000/120,000) to London and New York dealer Harry Blain, again double the artist’s previous high. Blain also bought Robert Gober’s box construction, Prison Window, 1992, for $3.4 million (estimate: $800,000/1.2 million).
Also among the record-breaking sculptures were a Charles Ray furniture work, Table, 1990, which sold for $3.1 million (estimate: $800,000/1.2 million) to dealer Matthew Marks, and Yinka Shonibare’s colorful installation, Hound, 2000, which sold to a phone bidder for $194,500 (estimate: $150,000/200,000).
One of the few lots to sell on a hammer bid below estimate was Takashi Murakami’s painted plastic group, DOB in the Strange Forest (Blue DOB), 1999, which went to Larry Gagosian for $2.8 million including commission (estimate: $2.5 million/3.5 million).
Also among the record breakers was Fred Tomaselli’s large diptych, Untitled (Explosion), 2000, sold for $1.65 million (estimate: $500,000/700,000) to a phone bidder against the artist’s dealer, James Cohan. Meanwhile, Glenn Ligon’s painting, Untitled (Stranger in the Village #17), 2000, sold to Robert Mnuchin of L&M Arts for $1.2 million (estimate: $300,000/500,000), more than double the previous record set at Christie’s recent Artists for Haiti sale.
Photograph-based work that broke records included: Barbara Kruger’s 1985 photographic print, Untitled (When I hear the word culture I take out my checkbook), which sold for $902,500 against an estimate of $250,000/350,000; Sophie Calle’s photographic ensemble, The Sleepers (Les dormeurs), 1979, which sold for $218,500 against an estimate of $100,000/150,000; and Christian Marclay’s collage made out of seven record album covers, Guitar Neck, 1992, which sold for $266,500 against an estimate of $60,000/80,000.
Also buying in the room were dealer Jack Tilton, who bought Wangechi Mutu’s collage, Shake a Tail Feather, 2003, for $170,500 (estimate: $120,000/180,000) and collector Eli Broad, who bought the last lot in the sale, Kara Walker’s silhouette mural, African’t, 1996, for $386,500 (estimate: $300,000/400,000).
Additional reporting by Eileen Kinsella