What Noteworthy New Artist Records Were Set at New York’s Fall Auctions?
There were two reclining nudes, a spider, and a bunch of candy in the mix.
In the whirlwind of sales at the big auction houses over the past couple of weeks, many records have been set for artists in the categories of contemporary as well as Impressionist and modern art. Some of the record sales, for highly-anticipated works by artists like Louise Bourgeois, Lucio Fontana, and Cy Twombly, made headlines, while others, for artists including John McCracken and Dorothea Tanning, occurred more discreetly. Here are some of the most noteworthy new world records of the lot.
1. Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957–1996), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale”
At Christie’s Postwar Contemporary evening sale, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s 1991 installation “Untitled” (L.A.), which is comprised of many individually wrapped green candies, sold for $7.67 million. Jerry Saltz later posted to his Facebook a so-called “detail” shot of several similarly-colored sweets sitting on a table in his apartment.
2. Mario Schifano (1934–1998), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale”
Cleopatra’s Dream, a 1960–61 abstract painting by Mario Schifano, sold for $893,000—a record breaking price for the Italian artist, and well above the $150,000–200,000 pre-sale estimate.
3. Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale”
Oldenburg’s 1929 sculpture Clothespin Ten Foot, which depicts—you guessed it—a giant clothespin, broke the record for a sculpture by the artist with a $3.6 million price tag at Christie’s.
4. Joe Bradley (b. 1975), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale”
A record was set for 40-year-old Joe Bradley, who recently signed with Gagosian, at the evening sale. Tres Hombres (2011), a colorful abstract painting, sold for just over $3 million, easily breaking its estimate of $1.5–2 million.
5. Lucio Fontana (1899–1968), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale”
At the same sale, Lucio Fontana’s celebrated 1964 painting Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio, sold for a whopping $29,173,000. According to Christie’s, the Fontana punctured the canvas because “making a hole was a radical gesture that broke the space of the picture and that said: after this, we are free to do what we want.”
6. Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale”
Christie’s installed Louise Bourgeois’s iconic Spider outside their Rockefeller Center headquarters in advance of the sale, which may have helped it achieve its $28,165,000 price at the Postwar Contemporary auction. The work broke the record for the sale of a sculpture created by a female artist.
7. Richard Pousette-Dart (1916–1992), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Evening Sale”
In another record-breaker of the evening, Richard Pousette-Dart’s massive 1958 diptych Blood Wedding sold for $2.63 million. It formerly belonged to Arthur and Anita Kahn, collectors who, according to the New York Times, “fill[ed] every inch of their Manhattan apartment” with contemporary art.
8. Le Corbusier (1887–1965), Phillips “20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale”
Le Corbusier‘s reputation as an iconic and influential architect may far outweigh his fine art career but Femme rouge et pelote verte (1932) was an object of interest Sunday night and set a new record for the artist. Bidding opened at $2.8 million and ended at $4 million ($4.6 million with premium) on an estimate of $4 million–6 million.
9. Cy Twombly (1928–2011), Sotheby’s “Contemporary Art Evening Auction”
An untitled Cy Twombly “Blackboard” painting from 1968 broke the artist’s record at Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale, fetching a whopping $70.53 million.
10. Mike Kelley (1954–2012), Sotheby’s “Contemporary Art Evening Auction”
A piece from Kelley’s 2001 “Memory Ware Flats” series sold at Sotheby’s for $3.1 million. The glimmering mixed media panels were most recently shown at Skarstedt’s Upper East Side location in 2012, and this year is the first time they have appeared at auction since the artist’s death. Another work from the series was sold at Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary day sale the same week for $2.8 million.
11. Frank Stella (b. 1936), Sotheby’s “The Collection of A. Alfred Taubman: Masterworks
Frank Stella is currently the subject of a buzzed-about retrospective at the Whitney Museum, which likely aided in the record-setting $12 million price tag of the 1961 painting Delaware Abstraction at Sotheby’s. The work was part of the collection of the auction house’s late owner, A. Alfred Taubman. Despite the high prices, it came at a cost: the largest single guarantee ($515 million) they’ve granted in history.
12. Balthus (1908–2001), Christie’s “The Artist’s Muse: A Curated Evening Sale”
At Christie’s curated evening sale “The Artist’s Muse,” a new record was set for Balthus when Lady Abdy, a modernist portrait, sold for $9.9 million. However, with an estimate of between $9–12 million, it was still on the low end.
13. Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997), Christie’s “The Artist’s Muse: A Curated Evening Sale”
At the same sale, Lichtenstein’s 1964 pop painting Nurse sold for $95.4 million, obliterating the artist’s previous record of $56.1 million set at Christie’s in 2013 for Woman with Flowered Hat (1963).
14. Gustave Courbet (1819–1877), Christie’s “The Artist’s Muse: A Curated Evening Sale”
What is it with reclining nudes this season? The record for a work by Courbet was also set, with the 1862 reclining nude portrait Femme nue couchée selling for $15.3 million, which while on the low end of its $15–25 million estimate, is still four times the artist’s previous auction record.
15. Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), Christie’s “The Artist’s Muse: A Curated Evening Sale”
Gauguin’s 1902 carved wooden sculpture Thérèse broke the record for a sculpture by the artist when it sold for $31 million at the same muse-inspired sale. The work depicts a stylized Polynesian woman and was thought to be lost for over 20 years before it resurfaced in a London private collection this year.
16. Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920), Christie’s “The Artist’s Muse: A Curated Evening Sale”
The crowning achievement of the “Artist’s Muse” sale, of course, was Modigliani’s 1917-18 nude Nu couché, which sold for a whopping $170.4 million. The work, which had been in a private collection for almost 30 years, far exceeded the previous $70.7 million record for a work by the artist, which was set at Sotheby’s this past November.
17. John McCracken (1934–2011), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Day Sale”
At Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary day sale, John McCracken’s minimalist sculpture Untitled sold for $965,000, far above its estimate of between $150,000–$250,000. The work came from the estate of Ileana Sonnabend, who acquired it directly from the artist.
18. Nicholas Krushenick (1929–1999), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Day Sale”
At the same afternoon sale, Orange One by Nicholas Krushenick sold for $197,000. While the canvas didn’t exceed its high estimate of $250,000, it set the record for a work by the artist.
19. Sam Gilliam (b. 1933), Christie’s “Postwar and Contemporary Day Sale”
Sam Gilliam’s technicolor canvas far exceeded its $18,000–22,000 estimate during the day sale, going instead for a record-breaking $317,000.
20. Kenneth Noland (1924–2011), Sotheby’s “Contemporary Art Day Auction”
The 1958 canvas Heat by Kenneth Noland (father to market darling Cady Noland) sold for $3.8 million, easily above its $1.5–2 million estimate. Just for comparison’s sake, a sculpture by the younger Noland sold in May 2014 for a whopping $9.8 million!
21. Richard Gerstl (1883–1908), Sotheby’s “The Collection of A. Alfred Taubman: Modern & Contemporary Art”
While the Taubman sale wasn’t Sotheby’s most impressive, it set the record for a work by Austrian painter Richard Gerstl, who is known for his intense and psychologically expressive portraits. A 1906 work, Dame Mit Federhut, sold for an impressive $3,722,000, significantly beyond the $600,000–800,000 estimate.
22. James Ensor (1860–1949), Sotheby’s “Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale”
Les Poissardes Mélancoliques, a painting by Belgian Surrealist James Ensor from the collection of Louis & Evelyn Franck, sold for $6,970,000.
23. Dorothea Tanning (1910–2012), Sotheby’s “Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale”
The Magic Flower Game, a canvas by Surrealist painter, sculptor, writer, and poet Dorothea Tanning (who was once married to fellow painter Max Ernst) broke the artist’s record when it sold for just over $1 million.
24. Jean Helion (1904–1987), Christie’s “Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale”
The one record set at this sale was for Jean Hélion‘s 1935 painting Abstraction, which, at $3.4 million, soared past its presale high estimate of $800,000.
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