Motherwell Fetches $2.7 Million at Sotheby’s Day Sale

Robert Motherwell, Red, Cut by Black (1966-67).
Courtesy of Sotheby's.

After last night’s immense contemporary art sale at Sotheby’s New York (see: “Rothko Reels in $45 Million at Sotheby’s $343.6 Million Contemporary Evening Sale”), the auctioneer’s contemporary art day sale got off to a good start today.

One highlight of the morning was the sale of Robert Motherwell’s Red, Cut by Black from 1966–67Estimated at $900,000–$1 million, the canvas sold for $2.7 million with buyer’s premium, well over twice the high estimate.

The youngest member of the New York School of Abstract Expressionist painters, Motherwell surpassed peers De Kooning, Rothko, and Pollock by extending his education to study philosophy at Harvard. That path intensified his desire to express personality via gestural painting.

Sotheby’s describes Red, Cut by Black as unique due to the fact “it was created in between [Motherwell’s] two major series [while retaining] influences of both.” The work is dominated by a vibrant shade of red, a color which the artist felt passionate about—and which is the shade that rings up the highest numbers at auction. Motherwell, who died in 1991, once waxed poetic about the color, saying, “Any red is rooted in blood, glass, wine, hunters’ caps and a thousand other concrete phenomena.”

Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry (1980).Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry (1980).
Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Other highlights of the morning sale included Andy Warhol’s 1980 Debbie Harry, which sold for $3.1 million against a presale estimate of $2.5–3.5 million and David Hockney’s Canyon Painting (1978), which sold for $3 million against an estimate of $1.2–1.8 million.


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