By Carter B. Horsley
If there was any doubt that the recent slide
in the stock markets might affect the art market's major spring
auctions, this auction put such fears to rest as it was very strong.
More than 95 percent of the 70 offered lots sold for a total of
more than $46 million in a sale that had had a high pre-sale estimate
of only $41 million.
Auction records were set for 17 artists, besting
the previous night achievement at the contemporary art auction
at Christie's at which 15 such records were set.
The star of this auction was Lot 33, "Yellow
Over Purple," shown above, a large and classic abstract painting
by Mark Rothko (1903-1970), that sold for $14,305,750, a record
for the artist and more than double the work's low estimate. The
69 ½-by-59 3/8-inch oil on canvas work was formerly in
the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Morton G. Newman and had been exhibited
at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from 1980-1.
The work was executed in 1956. (See The
City Review article on a major Rothko museum exhibition.)
A large Andy Warhol (1928-1987) painting of
multiple images of actress Natalie Wood, Lot 31, shown above,
that was formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Si Newhouse
Jr., sold for $2,755,750, way over its high estimate of $1.5 million.
The 83-by-63-inch oil on canvas, shown above, was executed in
Another Warhol, Lot 50, "Mao," a
synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas, 50 by 42 inches,
shown above, sold within its estimates at a hammer price of $420,000.
The catalogue noted that "In this explosive, exquisitely
painted canvas, Warhol transforms Mao's inscrutable mask into
an attractive, almost congenial caricature."
While Rothko and Warhol are major names whose
works appear fairly regularly on the market, Clyfford Still is
one of the giants of abstract expressionism whose works are very
rare. Lot 42, an untitled oil on canvas, 69 by 42 ¾ inches,
sold for $1,710,750, surpassing the previous world auction record
of $1,100,000 for this very important artist. It had been estimated
at $500,000 to $700,000. While not one of his largest works, the
painting, shown above, was particularly strong. It was executed
in 1947 and Tobias Meyer, the auctioneer, said after the sale
that the work had been auctioned before at Sotheby's in the mid
1990s when it sold for about $500,000.
A very striking deep ultramarine blue work
by Yves Klein (1928-1962), "RE 40," a sponge and pigment
in synthetic resin on panel, 78 ¾ by 59 inches, Lot 64,
sold within its estimates for $2,095,750, another auction record.
The catalogue remarked that "with its irregular pattern of
sponges interrupting the otherwise seamless blue canvas, it alludes
to the fantasies of other, unearthly territories
"Rain Forest," Lot 22, by Brice Marden
(b. 1938) sold just over its low estimate for $1,545,750, enough
for a world auction record for the artist. The 60 ¼-by-105-inch
oil and wax on linen, in three parts, was created in 1977.
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)(See The
City Review article on the de Kooning exhibition at the Museum
of Modern Art in New York.) had three works on the block and
all sold. Lot 44, "Untitled VI," a 80-by-70-inch oil
on canvas, sold for $1,380,750, which was within its estimates.
The work, shown above, was painted in 1975. The buyer, shown below,
stood at the back at the packed room.
The auction was attended by many major dealers
included Irving Blum, Richard Feigen and Larry Gagosian, who was
seen leaving the auction with Leonard Riggio, the chairman of
Barnes & Noble.
Another de Kooning, Lot 37, "Brown Derby
Road," a 62 ¾-by-49 ¼-inch oil on canvas, shown
above, was painted in 1958 and sold for a hammer price of $640,000,
not reaching its low estimate of $800,000. In contrast, a smaller
and quite stunning work by the artist, Lot 34, shown below, a
20 ½-by-15 ½-inch oil on paper laid down on canvas,
exceeded its high estimate of $250,000 and was knocked down for
$340,000. (See The City Review article on the artist.)
One of the three works that passed was Lot
40, "Vache au Genou Rouge, by Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985),
one of his very pleasant cow pictures, shown below. The 38 ¼-by-51
1/8-inch oil on canvas was painted in 1954 and had a low estimate
of $2 million. It was passed at $1.8 million. Another Dubuffet,
Lot 46, however, "Deviseurs au Journal," a 31 7/8-by-39
3/8-inch oil on canvas, dated 1961, sold within its estimates
Lot 47, "Day Pool with Three Blues (Paper
Pool 7)," a 72-by-85 ½-inch colored, pressed paper
pulp by David Hockney (b. 1937), sold for $665,750, surpassing
the $522,378 previous world auction record for a work on paper
by this artist. There apparently was some confusion as Laura Paulson,
the head of the department who was standing next to Mr. Meyer
taking telephone bids, thought she had indicated the winning $600,000
bid, but Mr. Meyer, who had knocked down his gavel, remained firm,
as he should have.
Lot 1, "Under the Eiffel Tower in Tokyo
Lauwarm," a steel, wood, styrofoam, glass object with 48
framed photographs by Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997), sold for
$64,000, an auction record for a sculpture by this artist. It
was executed in 1990.
Lot 2, "Untitled (Cowboy), a pair of ektacolor
prints, each 47 ¾ by 68 ¾ inches, by Richard Prince
(b. 1949) sold for $269,000, surpassing the previous auction record
of $151,000 for the artist. In one a cowboy is riding his horse
and in the other horses are galloping, all reminiscent of a Marlboro
ad. The catalogue said the work was unique.
Lot 5, "Plank Piece I-II," a pair
of black-and-white photographs of the artist, Charles Ray (b.
1953), propped up against a wall by a plank, sold for $368,750,
surpassing his former auction record of $288,500. The photographs,
each 39 ½ by 27 inches, were created in 1973. This was
an artist's proof from an edition of 7 and two artist's proofs.
Lot 10, "Prada III," an elegant work
by Andreas Gursky (b. 1955) depicting several racks of shoes,
sold for $181,750, surpassing his former auction record of $173,000.
The c-print, which is number 5/6, measures 67 by 118 ¼
inches and was executed in 1998. It had a high estimate of $80,000.
A large self-portrait color photograph of Cindy
Sherman (b. 1954) as a Renaissance lady, Lot 13, sold for $269,750,
surpassing her former auction record of $200,500. The 57-by-41-inch
photograph was executed in 1989 and is number 6 of an edition
Lot 17, "Amphotericin B," by Damien
Hirst (b. 1965), set a new auction record for the artist of $335,750,
considerably higher than his previous record for a painting of
$202,885. The 120-by-132-inch glass household paint on canvas
was painted in 1993.
A series of photographs entitled "Choosing
(A Game for Two Players): Garlic," by John Baldessari (b
1931), Lot 19, sold for $207,750, surpassing the artist's previous
auction record for a photograph of $68,500.
Lot 21, "Aluminum-Magnesium Alloy Square,"
by Carl Andre (b. 1935), sold for $401,750, surpassing the former
auction record of $354,500 for the artist. The 100-unit square
was executed in 1969.
A lovely black-and-white photograph of swirling
light by Bruce Nauman (b. 1941), "Light Trap for Henry Moore,
No. 1," Lot 25, sold for $533,750. His previous auction record
for a photograph was $63,000.
An untitled work by Donald Judd (1928-1994),
Lot 59, sold for $447,750, surpassing his previous auction record
of $409,500. The blue lacquer on galvanized iron work, 5 by 25
½ by 9 inches was dated 1967.
Lot 60, "Words," a 24 ½-inch
square ink on paper mounted on canvas by Agnes Martin (b. 1912),
sold for $291,750, surpassing the artist's previous auction record
of $156,500 for a work on paper.
Lot 61, an untitled work resembling a yellow
and black slightly repaired hula hoop by Martin Puryear (1941),
sold for $489,750, surpassing his previous auction record of $376,500.
Lot 6, an untitled alkyd and acrylic on aluminum
by Christopher Wool, (b. 1955), was knocked down for its low estimate
of $80,000. Mr. Meyer, the auctioneer, Meyer appeared to be amused
by the words on the object, "WANT TO BE YOUR DOG," which
he read aloud.
"These dogs," Mr. Meyer announced
with glee for the following lot, 7, "Yorkshire Terriers,"
by Jeff Koons (b. 1955). The polychromed wood sculpture was 17
½ by 20 ½ by 17 inches and was executed in 1991
as the second of an edition of 3 plus one artist's proof. The
work was sold for a hammer price of $230,000 and had a high estimate
of $180,000. Another Koons, Lot 11, "Wall Relief with Bird,"
an impressive ornate floral display but not quite as charming
as the terriers, sold within its estimate for a hammer price of
Lot 12 was an interesting and rather pleasant
and unoffensive work by Kiki Smith (b. 1954), a 63-by-18 ½-54-inch
graphite on metho-cellulose with hand dyed Nepalese paper sculpture
of a standing man with guts of multi-colored fabric falling from
his gut. The 1993 work sold for a hammer price of $160,000 and
had a high estimate of $120,000.
A quite mesmerizing and fine oil by Eric Fischl
(b. 1948), Lot 14, "Woman Surrounded by Dogs," sold
for a hammer price of $300,000, its low estimate. It was dated
Lot 18 was one of the finest works in the auction,
Lot 18, a still life, shown above, by Gerhard Richter of three
apples, a 25 ¼-by-31 ½-inch oil on canvas, dated
1984. It sold for a hammer price of $630,000, which was within
Lot 26, "Three Lead Coils," was an
unusual, attractive work by Richard Serra (b. 1939), the artist
famous for dividing Federal Plaza downtown with a large, high
curved iron "arc." It sold for a hammer price of $220,000,
more than double its low estimate.
Bidding in the room was quite lively.
Lot 41, "Mycenae," a very bold and
fine large oil by Franz Kline (1910-1962) from the collection
of Nancy and Benno Schmidt sold for a hammer price of $600,000,
below its low estimate of $800,000.
After the sale, Mr. Meyer remarked that the
Rothko was like a "Monet Cathedral" and that such supreme
quality works "have the capacity to pull prices up."
When asked to comment on the age of buyers of many of the photographic
works in the sale, Mr. Meyer, smiling, said, "Annoyingly,
younger than I am."