By Carter B. Horsley
Not surprisingly, the second
part of Sotheby's spring 1999 Contemporary Art auctions was not
as successful as the first part the evening before. (See The City Review article of
that auction.) Of 256
lots offered, 189, or less than 75 percent sold and the sale's
total of $7,754,645 was 73.9 percent of the anticipated low estimate.
"Classic works from the
1960's fetched very strong prices," Tracy Williams, senior
vice president of Sotheby's Contemporary Art Department, noted,
adding that six of the sale's top ten lots sold for over their
The top lot was "Four
Marilyn (Reversal Series, Black/White)," Lot 286, by Andy
Warhol (1928-1987), whose works have been very popular this auction
season. The 36 by 28 inch acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
done between 1979 and 1986 sold to a European collector for $299,500
and had carried a $260,000 high estimate.
A private collector paid $266,500,
well over the $225,000 high estimate, for Lot 100, "Ephitalamion
III," by Cy Twombly (b. 1928), and a European dealer paid
$200,500 for an untitled work by Donald Judd (1928-1994), well
over its high estimate of $150,000. Other successful works were
Lot 295, "Pappas Heart #2," a very large 1988 oil on
canvas by Jim Dine (b. 1935), which was bought for $178,500 by
an American collector and had carried a high estimate of $150,000,
and Lot 231, "Late Fall," by Philip Guston (1913-1980),
which sold for $178,500, just over its high estimate.
Unlike many of the major lots
offered in the evening Contemporary Art auctions at Christie's
and Sotheby's this spring, this auction had many handsome works.
Among the most interesting
lots was Lot 256, an untitled spray paint on canvas painting by
David Smith, shown at the top of this article, a fine example
of a great artist in one medium, in Smith's case, sculpture, also
being very noteworthy in another. Estimated at $4,000 to $6,000,
it sold for $74,000.
Another interesting and rather
beautiful work was Lot 173, "Piss Elegance," a color
photograph, one of an edition of four, by Andres Serrano, that
sold above its high estimate fo $17,500.
A very strong Richard Diebenkorn
(1922-1993), Lot 243, sold above its $90,000 high estimate fo
An impressive oil by Zao Wou-ki
(b. 1921), Lot 235, went for $90,500,double its high estimate.
Lot 257, a fine ink and gouache
on paper by Alexander Calder (1898-1976) that was estimated at
$7,000 to $9,000 and sold for $20,700. Lot 264, a very interesting
1948-9 oil and gouache on paper by Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993),
sold for $85,000, almost twice its high estimate.
A good, colorful Robert Rauschenberg
(b.1925), Lot 270, a 15 by 20 inch solvent transfer on plastic,
paper, ink and tape 1966 collage, sold for $25,300, far above
its high estimate of $15,000.
A stong acrylic on canvas by
Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), Lot 210, sold for $79,500, well
above its high estimate of $60,000, and a nice Mark Tobey (1890-1976)
sold for $145,000, well above its high estimate of $80,000.
There were several works that
did not command astronomical estimates but were excellent. A fine,
typical Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974), shown above, Lot 227, an
acrylic on paper, sold for $25,875, and had a high estimate of
$20,000. A wonderful oil and gesso on board by Hans Hofmann (1880-1966),
sold within its estimate for $24,150. A vibrant work, Lot 261,
by Conrad Marca-Elli (b. 1913), sold within its estimate for $25,875.
There were many surprising
passes: Lot 87 was a thunderbolt design of fluorescent tubes by
Dan Flavin that was one of his finest works in that it was an
appropriate concept; Lots 122 and 130, large and excellent paintings
by Sandro Chia (b. 1946); Lots 203 and 205, a good painting and
a superb sculpture by Nancy Graves (1940-1995); Lot 223, a good
gouache on paper by Sam Francis (1923-1994); Lot 242, a very good
wood and paper collage by Louise Nevelson (1899-1988); Lots 279,
281A, 293, and 309, works by Andy Warhol, and Lot 299, "Fast
Sketch Still Life With Abstract Painting," a 60 by 90 inch
oil on cut-out aluminum by Tom Wesselman (b. 1931), shown below.
A very fine Nevelson sculpture,
Lot 209, one of an edition of six, fell short of its low estimate
and sold for $27,600.