Sunday, November 18, 2012

Diebenkorn, Warhol, Basquiat, Lichtenstein shine at Christie’s auction

This was supposed to be ‘the mother of all’ topnotch contemporary artwork sales. Christie’s Europe Under the direction of its chairman Jussi Pylkkänen sold 67 paintings for $412.2m, among the highest totals ever attained in the field. The best price of $43.76m was achieved by Andy WarholAndy Warhol’s work ‘Statue of Liberty’ (1962). In contrast to the event held just the day before at Sotheby’s auction house, with the emphasis more on ‘contemporary’ works done decades ago, two more recent artworks also scaled record peaks.

In fact, Pop Art was back in flavor as when it first swept the New York art scene. Done on canvas in silk-screen inks, graphite and spray enamel, the image was shown several times from New York and LA to Berlin and London. The price well exceeded the auction house estimate of around $35, plus the sale charge of over 12 percent. Souren Melikian of The NYT highlighted important benchmarks that the auction set:
  • Four auction house records were set. One of Franz Kline’s abstract compositions of black bands furiously brushed across a white ground, ‘Untitled’ (1957), sold for $40.4m, exceeding the estimate of $20m to $30m. This record price confirms the renewed surge of interest for the NY school artist who breathed his last in 1962.
  • The California artist Richard Diebenkorn set another auction record at $13.52m. His ‘Ocean Park #48’ (1971) is typical of the artist’s abstract geometrical designs in pale toned hues, leaving the linear structure apparent.
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings in the manner of teenagers expressing themselves in street graffiti are now treated as classics of contemporary art. One of these painted in 1981 fetched $26.4m. A mind-boggling amount of $33.68m was paid for a set of enormous ‘Tulips’ in high chromium stainless steel apparently credited to Jeff Koons.
  • The enthusiasm triggered by the majority of artworks, irrespective of their style, gave the event its full significance. Some big scores such as the $21.36m offered for by Rothko’s ‘Black Stripe (Orange, Gold and Black – 1957)’ were only to be expected. But others were a bit more surprising. ’De Medici’ by Kline done in 1956 climbed to a bid of $11.06 million. Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Nude With Red Shirt’ (1995) rose far above the high estimate, fetching $28.08 million.

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