Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale


By: Madelaine D'Angelo

Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale, the sixth auction in seven days, brought in $294.85 million and sold 81.5 percent of the works. Records were set for artist Twombly, bringing $70.5 million with the piece “blackboard” painting, Untitled (New York City), 1968. Also artist Mike Kelley made his auction record of $3.3 million.


Sotheby’s brought applause and relief after a mixed week in the art market with Christies and Philips both showing unpredictable sales. 24 out of the 54 lots went above the high estimates atoning for the $500 million “sing-and-miss gamble” that Sotheby’s took when auctioning A. Alfred Taubman’s estate. Kim Heirstone, art advisor, who bought an Ed Ruscha for 3.3 million for her client, said to Art News in regards to the buyers in the auction that, “’It was a good feeling and definitely a good mood.” Oliver Barker, deputy chairman and auctioneer for Sotheby’s night said to Art News, “We wanted to price these in a way that would encourage bidding.” Unlike the other auctions this week, Sotheby's proved to be successful breaking high estimates with almost half their lots.  Citi art advisor, Suzanne Gyorgy said to Art Net, “Tonight showed that when the houses put together a sale with sane estimates, they can have a solid night."

A 1972 Warhol “Mao” silk-screen that Sotheby’s guaranteed at $40 million sold for $47.5 million, which countered Christies’s Warhol performance “Flower,” which sold below the low estimate. Warhol’s “Mao” was owned by billionaire Steven A. Cohen who originally acquired it for $17 million in 2007. To the New York Times, Tony Shafrazi, who bought a Christopher Wool piece for 3.9 million said about the auction, “It’s good stuff, so it’s exciting.” Alexander Rotter, co-head of the Sotheby’s New York contemporary art department said, “Tonight showed there is a healthy art market, if you don’t push prices.”


Art expert said to the New York Times that works that sold under the estimate or didn’t sell at all, were due the unreasonable pricing. “’…works that are not priced well won’t sell,’” collector Larry Warsh said.


Basquiate’s 1982 “Hannibal,” failed to meet its low estimate of $8 million according to Warsh because of it being “’priced too high.’” On the other hand Basquiate’s “’Untitled’” from 1987 sold for three times the high estimate bringing $8.3 million.