Hack-Hit Christie’s Sells $114.7 Million of Contemporary Art, Withdraws Major Marden

New artist records were set at its New York headquarters for Martin Wong, Ana Mendieta, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and more.

At Christie's in New York, a Felix Gonzalez-Torres sculpture sold for a record $13.6 million. Photo by Eileen Kinsella.

On Tuesday night in New York, with its website still crippled from a cyberattack, Christie’s managed to hold two back-to-back sales of contemporary art, hauling in about $114.7 million in front of a packed house and setting several new artist records.

While the 250-year-old house is now running an alternative, barebones website, its online bidding platform, Christie’s Live, was functioning, and bids were rolling in at a rapid clip. Inside the elegantly lit salesroom at Rockefeller Center, there was no sign that the house’s tech operations had been thrown into chaos on Thursday night.

Before the sale, Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti managed to joke with reporters about the ongoing issue. “We wanted to do it without IT at all,” he deadpanned. At a post-auction news conference, he said that his team has been searching for solutions while reassuring clients.

The evening started with roughly two-dozen lots from the collection of the late collector Rosa de La Cruz, who died in February. Her family has shuttered their namesake Miami art space, and  they have sent numerous works to the block, surprising some insiders, since the markets for many of the contemporary figures that she collected are down.

Christie’s guaranteed all 26 lots in the de la Cruz sale, so it was something of a surprise when one lot, a Martin Kippenberger painting estimated at $2 million to $3 million was withdrawn. The remaining 25 pieces sold for $34.4 million (with buyer’s premium), solidly within the event’s original presale estimate of $25 million to $37 million. (All final prices include premium; estimates do not.)

Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled (America #3). (1992). Image courtesy Christie's.

Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled (America #3), 1992. Image courtesy Christie’s.

The top lot of the de la Cruz sale was, as expected, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s suspended string of light bulbs, Untitled (America #3), 1992, which went for $13.6 million, edging out its $12 million high estimate. Katsura Yamagachi, the managing director of Christie’s Japan, won the work, bidding for a client on the phone. At the press conference, Christie’s executives confirmed that the sculpture was acquired by the Pola Museum of Art, in Hakone, Japan, southwest of Tokyo. The previous auction high for a Gonzalez-Torres was $7.7 million, set in 2015, according to the Artnet Price Database.

Many of the de la Cruz lots drew heated competition from multiple bidders. Works by Ana Mendieta saw fierce bidding, and her auction record was reset twice during the evening.

an image of photographs by artist Ana Mendieta

Ana Mendieta, Silueta Works in Mexico (1973–77). Image courtesy Christie’s.

A 1983 floor sculpture by Mendieta, Untitled (Sandwoman Series/Serie Mujer de Arena), went for $567,000, her new top mark. At the start of the sale, Mendieta’s Silueta Works in Mexico (1973–77), a suite of 12 color photographs estimated between $50,000 to $70,000, soared to $277,200. Her previous auction record, set in 2008, according to the Artnet Price Database, was $204,000.

After the de la Cruz material, Christie’s moved to its usual 21st-century evening sale. It totaled $80.3 million—well below its original low estimate of $104 million, due to a major, eyebrow-raising withdrawal. Bidding was enthusiastic and spirited, though not frothy.

A color photo shows a square painting with human forms and text

Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Italian Version of Popeye Has No Pork in His Diet, 1982. Photo courtesy Christie’s.

The top lot was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s The Italian Version of Popeye has no Pork in his Diet (1982), which sold for $32 million.

Christie’s made the last-minute decision to pull another potential star, Brice Marden’s Event (2004–07), which had an estimate of $30 million to $50 million. Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20/21 art departments, said post-sale that the house had decided to wait until the market felt “right.”

There were two other withdrawals from the main evening sale: a work by art-market darling Nicolas Party that was estimated at $2 million to $3 million was pulled before the festivities began, and a painting by the veteran Minimalist Robert Mangold, estimated up to $1 million, was yanked just before it was due to hit the block.

The final total of $80.3 million ended up being just above the sale’s revised low estimate of $74 million, accounting for the three withdrawals. (Artnet will have detailed stats on the de la Cruz and 21st-century sales via its “By the Numbers” feature later today.)

An image of a can of beer, a gun, and a heart againt a background of buildings with a red sky

Martin Wong, Portrait of Mikey Pinero at Ridge Street and Stanton/ Image courtesy Christie’s.

On a more positive note, the main evening sale of 21st century art set new records for blue-chip photographer Diane Arbus ($1.2 million, for Identical Twins, from 1966), figurative painter Reggie Burrows Hodges ($882,000), and the late, great star Martin Wong ($1.6 million.)

The New York auction action shifts back to Sotheby’s tonight, which will host a sale of modern art at its York Avenue headquarters.


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