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Contemporary Art

Part 2


November 17, 1999

"Attila der Hunnenkonig" by Nam June Paik

Lot 156, "Attila der Hunnenkonig" by Nam June Paik, 1993

by Carter B. Horsley

With so much attention in the fall of 1999 to the controversy over the "Sensations" exhibit of contemporary British artists from the Saatchi Collection at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, it comes as a relief to realize that not all young artists are absorbed with death and shock.

This large auction, of course, runs the gamut of contemporary art but many of the best works display a good sense of humor and some actually make strong statements in an artistic manner.

Certainly the most amusing and jovial work on the auction block this season is Nam June Paik's "Attila der Hunnenkonig," Lot 156, shown above.

Paik, of course, is the grandfather of video art and most of his work merely does interesting things with conventional TV sets. This work, however, is a Rube Goldbergesque tv contraption that may well be his finest creation. The notion of a helmeted diver riding a bicycle is by itself great fun. Paik has festooned his diver with a handsome large scarf and has a hynoptic computer art movie running in his front TV. The diver obviously is a hard and hearty worker for mounted on the back of the bike are many more TV sets all with neon signs. The lot has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It failed to sell.

Considerably more elegant than Paik's junk-yard aesthetic of Lot 156 is the untitled work by Meyer Vaisman (b. 1960), Lot 173, shown below. The two taxidermic turkeys have the tail feathers of braided fabric entwined in a lovely romantic touch and they are formally attired with ed cumerbund, bowtie and costume jewelry. The work, which comes form the collection of Mahammad Mottahedan of London, has an estimate of $14,000 to $16,000. It sold for $16,100 including the buyer's premium as do all sales prices in this article.

Untitled by Meyer Vaisman

Lot 173, "Untitled" by Meyer Vaisman, 1994

Andres Serano (b. 1950) is the very controversial artist best known for his "Piss Christ" photograph. Here he is represented by "Black Rembrandt," Lot 356, a triptych of treated Cibachrome prints mounted on aluminum panels, each 15 7/8 by 11 3/4 inches, shown below. This lot is number 15 of an edition of 15 and has an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. Serano has skillfully altered Rembrandt images to make them more multicultural. It sold for $27,600.

"Black Rembrandt" by Andres Serano

Lot 356, "Black Rembrandt," by Andres Serano, 1991

Another very effective work of art is Lot 366, an untitled work by Kara Walker (b. 1969) that depicts a group of rambuctuous children in silhouette on cut paper between linen mounted in a wooden light box, 60 by 72 inches. It is a gargantuan cartoon whose presentation gives it impressive scale and luminosity. It has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It sold for $28,750.

Another arresting work is Lot 358," Mirage (Miko no Inori)," a digital video still formatted on glass panel with artist's Plexiglas base by Mariko Mori (b. 1967). The work was executed in 1997 and is number two of an edition of five and has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $36,800.

Lot 350, "Cable-car, Dolomites," is a fine photographe by Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) that shows the dramatic mountains shrounded in mist with a minuscule cable-car in the center of the sky. The 33-by-41-inch cibachrome print has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000 and is the cover illustration of the catalogue. It sold for $48,300.

Lot 208, "Sacred Ape," is a good painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) that has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $387,500.

Lot 165, "Centarus," is a strong work by Lynda Benglis (b. 1941) that conjures the crushed pleats of fashion designer Fortuny in a large work of aluminum over wire mesh. It has a high estimate of $15,000. It was withdrawn.

Particularly striking is Lot 231, "Maos Dadas," by Ernesto Neto (b. 1964). The work consists of a pair of lead and aluminum hands crasping one another, each hanging from long silk ribbons. It has an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000. It sold for $5,175.

Of the 287 lots offered, 76 percent were sold. "Today's sale produced exceptionally strong prices for 1990s artists including record prices for young artists such as Sue Williams, Tom Friedman, Uta Barth and Rineke Dijkestra," remarked Andew Massad, the Christie's specialist in charge of the sale. "Photographs by Andeas Gursky, Nan Golden and Philip Lorca DiCorcia consistently soared above pre-sale estimates to fetch exceptional prices," he added.

The sale total was $4,998,940 "pushing the overall fall total for 19th Century Art, Impressionist & Post-Impressionist Art, 20th Century Art and Contemporary Art to $252,462,625," according to Mr. Massad.

Use the Search Box below to quickly look up articles at this site on specific artists, architects, authors, buildings and other subjects



See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction Nov. 16, 1999 at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Sotheby's Nov. 17, 1999 auction of Contemporary Art

See The City Review article on the auctions of Contemporary Art from a European Private Collection and Contemporary Art, Part 2, at Sotheby's Nov. 18, 1999

See The City Review article on the May 18, 1999 Contemporary Art Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on Contemporary Art Part 2 auction at Sotheby's May 19, 1999

See The City Review article on the Christie's, May 19, 1999 Contemporary Art auction

See The City Review article on the Christie's, May 20, 1999 Contemporary Art Part 2 auction


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