By Carter B. Horsley
This evening auction of Contemporary Art November
14, 2007 at Sotheby's is highlighted by two superb and very painterly
works by Francis Bacon, several works by Andy Warhol, a spectacular
sculpture by Jeff Koons and good works by Mark Rothko, Robert
Rauschenberg, Peter Doig, and Morris Louis.
Bacon (1909-1992) is one of the great 20th
Century masters whose works are mesmerizing ghostly, visceral
and macabre and highly original.
Lot 29 is the "Second Version of Study
for Bullfight No. 1," an oil on canvas that measures 78 3/4
by 58 1/8 inches. Executed in 1969, it has a "refer to Department"
estimate. Bacon did 6 bullfight paintings including a triptych
that is still in the artist's estate. This painting is slightly
bigger than the "Study for Bullfight No. 1," which is
in a private collection, and "Study for Bullfight No. 2,"
which is in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Lyon. This lot
has an estimate "in excess of $35 million." It sold
for $45,961,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results
mentioned in this article. It was the highest price of the auction.
The sale was very successful. Of the 71
lots offered, 65 sold for a total of $315,907,000 including the
buyer's premium. The pre-sale estimate without the buyers' premiums
was $220,300,000 to $298,700,000.
Tobias Meyer, the auctioneer, said that
the auction total was the highest in Sotheby's history and that
the Bacon was the highest priced lot to sell so far this season.
Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art auction last week (see
The City Review article) was disappointing,
so the success of this auction came as a great relief to Sotheby's.
Mr. Meyer was asked how he felt before the auction started and
he smiled broadly and indicated he was "breathing fasts"
but once it began he felt "very happy." The Sotheby's
total was close to Christie's total of about $325,000,000 the
previous night (see The City Review article)
but Christie's had 5 more lots.
Much smaller but more satisfying,
Lot 19 is a small self portrait by Francis Bacon that measures
14 by 12 inches. It was executed in 1969 and as a "refer
to Department" estimate that was "more than $15 million."
It sold for $33,081,000 and Mr. Meyer had to ask the auction employee
bidding on the phone for the buyer what was the paddle number
a second time "because he was too happy to hear" it
the first time. The catalogue entry notes that Bacon once
observed that "I've done a lot of self-portraits, really
because people have been dying around me like flies...I loathe
my one face, but I go on painting it beause I haven't got any
other peoople to do."
Lot 14 is a spectacular sculpture
by Jeff Koons (b. 1955) entitled "Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold),"
one of five versions each uniquely colored that he executed between
1994 and 2006. Executed with high chromium stainless steel with
transparent color coating and yellow brass, it measures 106 by
85 by 40 inches. It has an estimate of $15,000,000 to $20,000,000.
It sold for $23,561,000, setting a new auction record for Koons
as well as a new record for a work by a living artist. The previous
auction record for Koons was $11,801,000.
"The concept of the 'ready-made'
transformed into 'high art' is the rich creative vein that runs
throughout his entire career, finding its most perfect execution
in the Celebration series, with the present work as one
of its centerpieces," the catalogue entry for this lot maintains,
adding that this work has 10 layers of paint and took over 6,000
man hours to produce. The Celebration series consists of
20 sculptures and 16 paintings "inspired by Koons' enduring
preoccupation with childhood experiences and child-like consciousness."
Lot 50 is a strong abstraction
by Hans Hofmann (1880-1966). Entitled "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
(A Nightly Love Song)," it is an oil on canvas that measures
50 1/8 by 40 1/8 inches and was executed in 1964. It has an estimate
of $1,200,000 to $1,600,000. It sold for $2,057,000.
The catalogue provides the
"...Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,
1964, is an outstanding example of Hans Hofmann's major developments
with his 'Push Pull' theory, using rectangular blocks of color
to inform spatial organization and create a bold symphony of color.
In Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the distinct rectangles of blue
and green separate themselves from the thick impasto of the vibrant
red ground, creating a pulsing sensation of movement and energy,
breaking the 'negative' space into geometric slabs themselves....The
'push and pull' of the slabs resonates in the highly dynamic surface,
further amplified by the furiously expressive brushwork."
Lot 49 is a very beautiful,
dark blue, untitled abstraction by Mark Rothko (1903-1970). An
oil on paper mounted on canvas, it measures 39 by 25 5/8 inches
and was painted in 1968. It is property from the collection of
Harriet Walker Henderson. It has a conservative estimate of $3,500,000
to $4,500,000. It sold for $7,769,000, a record for a work
on paper by the artist.
Lot 33 is a large untitled
abstraction by Rothko that was executed one year later. An acrylic
on canvas, it measures 60 by 68 inches and was once in the collection
of Mr. and Mrs. Ad Reinhardt. Simple but handsome, it consists
of a black rectangle over a dark grey rectangle. It has an ambitious
estimate of $12,000,000 to $18,000,000. It sold for $12,081,000.
Lot 36 is a very strong abstraction
by Morris Louis (1912-1962) that is entitled "Saf Beth."
An oil on canvas, it measures 108 by 144 inches and was painted
in 1959. Unlike many of his "stain" pictures that have
strands of color flowing down at the edges, this is centrally
focused and conjures a fire in a quite interesting and unexpected
composition. It has a modest estimate of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000.
It failed to sell and was passed at $850,000.
Lot 16 is a large and good
work by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). "Untitled (Electric
Chair)" is an acrylic, gold spray paint and oilstick on canvas
that measures 66 by 96 1/4 inches. It was painted in 1981-2. It
has an estimate of $8,000,000 to $10,000,000. It sold for $11,801,000.
Lot 32 in an impressive abstraction
by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) that is entitled "Shadow."
An acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, it measures 80 by 192
inches and was executed 1978-9. It has an estimate of $4,500,000
to $6,500,000. It sold for $7,657,000.
This work is part of a series
Warhol created in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the catalogue
notes that Warhol called the series "Shadows" because
they were based on shadows in his office created by using cardboard
maquettes and that Warhol used the motif in many formats. "Warhol's
most extensive exploration of the subject came with his vast installation
work in 102 parts now in the Dia Collection in Beacon."
Lot 12 is strong work by Andy Warhol entitled
"Suicide." A silkscreen ink on paper, it measures 40
by 30 inches and was created in 1964. "Visual aesthetics,
rigorous use of composition and astute choice of subject matter,"
according to the catalogue entry for this lot, "come together
in Andy Warhol's Suicide, 1964, to create a work of power,
beauty and tragedy....Suicide is an outstanding example
of the artist's Death and Disaster series that reveals
Warhol's pre-occupation with the contradictions inherent in public
and private despair....Warhol is believed to have created and
dated his first Suicide silkscreen on paper in 1962, one
of his earliest uses of the photographic silkcreeen process. In
1964, Warhol produced an additional four or five versions of this
image, including to the present work." The lot has an estimate
of $3,500,000 to $4,500,000. It sold for $5,193,000, breaking
the artist's previous auction record for a work on paper of $2,840,000.
Another Warhol is Lot 41, "Campbell's
Soup Can (Pepper Pot)," a casein and pencil on canvas that
measures 20 by 16 inches and is dated 1962. The work was once
in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Burton G. Tremaine Sr. of Meriden,
Connecticut, and New York, and was sold at Christie's in New York
May 14, 2003 for $2,415,500 when it had an estimate of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000.
This time the lot has an estimate of $7,000,000 to $9,000,000.
It sold for $8,441,000.
"Self Portrait (Green Camouflage)," is an 80-inch square
acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas by Warhol that is dated 1986.
It has an ambitious estimate of $9,000,000 to $12,000,000. It
sold for $12,361,000.
Lot 40 is
a large and fine acrylic and collage on canvas by Robert Rauschenberg
(b. 1925). Entitled "Primo Calle/ ROCI Venezuela," it
measures 81 1/8 by 212 1/2 inches and was created in 1985. It
has a modest estimate of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It sold
for $2,617,000. The ROCI project was an effort to promote
world peace and marks the artist's return to silk-screening for
the first time since 1964.
Lot 1 is a pleasant, untitled
pastelon buff paper with cut edge by Robert Ryman (b. 1930). The
12-inch-square work was executed circa 1960-2. It has an estimate
of $300,000 to $400,000. It sold for $769,000.
Lot 21 is a large and impressive
abstraction by Gerhard Richter (b. 1932). "Abstract Painting
(596)" is an oil on canvas in two parts and is dated 1986.
It measures 102 1/2 by 157 1/2 inches. It has an ambitious estimate
of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It sold for $9,785,000.
Lot 26 is a good, typical,
untitled, stainless-steel sculpture by Donald Judd (1928-1994).
It consists of ten units with red fluorescent Plexiglass and was
executed in 1977. It has an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000.
It sold for $7,433,000.
Lot 59 is an intriguing "snow"
painting by Peter Doig (b. 1959). "Untitled (Silver Pond
Painting" is an oil on canvas that measures 73 1/4 by 78
1/4 inches and is dated 2001. It has an estimate of $2,500,000
to $3,500,000. It sold for $2,729,000.
Lot 6 is a untitled ektachrome
print of a cowboy sitting on a fence playing with his lariat by
Richard Prince (b. 1949), the current subject of a retrospective
exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The print measures
100 by 66 inches and was executed in 2001-2. It has an estimate
of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. It sold for $3,401,000.
Lot 66 is a striking red portrait
of "Mao" by Yan Pei Ming (b. 1960). An oil on canvas
that measures 70 by 78 inches, it was painted in 2000 and has
an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $1,609,000,
well over the artist's previous auction record of $1,035,573.
Numerous records were set.
Lot 3, "Corner piece
No. 2," a sculpture by Sol Lewitt sold for $881,000, well
over the artist's previous auction record of $520,000.
Lot 11, "Big E,"
a sculpture by John Chamberlain sold for $4,633,000, well over
the artist's previous auction record of $2,841,000.
Lot 17, an untitled sculpture
by Anish Kapoor, sold for $2,841,000, nicely over the artist's
previous auction record of $2,256,000.
Lot 22, "Abstract Painting,
Blue," by Ad Reinhardt sold for $2,617,000, a bit over the
artist's previous auction record of $2,530,000.
Lot 23, "Spectrum VI,"
by Ellsworth Kelly, sold for $5,193,000, way over the artist's
previous auction record of $2,952,000.
Lot 24, "Even Level,"
by Richard Serra, sold for $1,497,000, breaking the artist's previous
auction record of $1,215,750.
Lot 37, "Homage to
the Square: Joy," by Josef Albers, sold for $1,497,000, nicely
over the artist's previous auction record of $1,136,000.
Lot 58, "Circle/Rectangle
7 (Large Rod Series)," by Walter de Maria, sold for $577,000,
more than twice the artist's previous auction record.
Lot 62, "Cremaster
2," by Matthew Barney, sold for $571,000, well over the artist's
previous auction record of $400,000.
Lot 65, "Series 2,
No. 6," by Fang Lijun, sold for $4,073,000 more than twice
the artist's previous auction record.
Lot 68, "Family Portrait,"
by Zhang Xiaogang," sold for $4,969,000, well over the artist's
previous auction record of $3,961,000.
Lot 31, "Pancakes,"
by Jeff Koons sold for $3,849,000 breaking the artist's previous
auction record for a painting of $3,040,000.
Mr. Meyer remarked after
the auction that the art market now is "very global,"
declining to provide a geographic breakdown of the evening's buyers,
stating that many buyers have multiple residences.