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.
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.
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.