Robert Motherwell Leads Heritage’s First Contemporary Art Sale in New York

The top lots included works by Lichtenstein, Gorky, and Warhol.

Robert Motherwell, Untitled (Ochre with Black Line), 1972–73/1974. Photo: Heritage Auctions.
Robert Motherwell, Untitled (Ochre with Black Line), 1972–73/1974. Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Robert Motherwell‘s Untitled (Ochre with Black Line) sold for $965,000 on October 28, leading the first New York sale of modern and contemporary art at Heritage Auctions, which brought in a total of $3.85 million on the night and saw 87 percent of lots find buyers.

The sale, which got a head start on the fall auction season, which begins in earnest next week, is the Dallas-headquartered collectibles auctioneer’s first foray into the New York contemporary art market.

Andy Warhol, <em>Endangered Species </em>(1983). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Andy Warhol, Endangered Species (1983).
Photo: Heritage Auctions.

The Motherwell was within its estimate ($800,000–1.2 million). A full set of 10 of Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species screenprints fetched $725,000.

Other highlights included Ai Weiwei’s Surveillance Camera, which exceed its low pre-sale estimate by just $1,000 when it sold for $401,000, and a Mel Ramos’s painting of Batman, which brought in $173,000, even though the artist originally traded it away for a stack of comic books. The canvas, titled A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows, was not expected to sell for more than $120,000.

The top ten lots also included works by Roy Lichtenstein, Arshile Gorky, and Sam Francis, as well as a screenprint and silkscreen by Warhol.

Mel Ramos, A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows(1962). Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Mel Ramos, A Sinister Figure Lurks in the Shadows (1962).
Photo: Heritage Auctions.

Among the unsold lots was Robert Rauschenberg’s Van Vleck Series VI, which Heritage estimated would be hammered down at $120,000–180,000.

All in all, the numbers aren’t nearly in the same stratosphere as the expected hauls at the other major auction houses in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, Heritage offers collectors a chance to sell less valuable works by artists just as sought-after, which might not be of interest to its competitors.

As Leon Benrimon, Heritage’s director of modern and contemporary art in New York, told artnet News before the sale, “We aren’t trying to compete with Sotheby’s, Christie’s or Phillips.”

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