By Michele Leight
Blue dominates at Christie's
Post-War and Contemporary Art auction in New York, with Jeff Koons's
glistening "Blue Diamond" attracting the attention of
and delighting passers by in bustling Rockefeller Center - "No
it can't be, yes it is, a gigantic, gaudy blue bauble!" -
and Andy Warhol's, stunning goddess of the silver screen, turquoise
blue "Liz" turning heads in the galleries.
"Warhol is the new gold
standard," said Robert Manley, at a lunch featuring "Liz"
from the collection of Hugh Grant and other iconic faces and portraits
in a wonderful exhibit, "Faces in Art: Iconic Portraiture"
from October 29-31 at Christie's Galleries, Rockefeller Center,
in anticipation of the upcoming Post-War and Contemporary Art
Sale, among others.
Lot 29, "Liz" is
a 40-inch-square synthetic polymer, silkscreen inks and acrylic
on linen that Warhol (1928-1987) created in 1963. It has an ambitious
estimate of $25,000,000 to $35,000,000. It sold for $23,561,000
including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this
article. The catalogue includes a photograph of the artist
at his "Factory" at 231 East 47th Street beside "pink"
and "yellow" versions of "Liz."
Andy Warhol painted many portraits
of Liz, in all circumstances, the "ups and the downs,"
even when she was battling death through illness, and was predicted
not to survive. This exuberant "Liz" represents a "come
back," literally, when Liz did pull through. Warhol typically
portrayed Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy - life-long
muses of the artist - in periods of crisis and tragedy.
Warhols on offer at this sale include "Elvis 2 Times,"
Lot 40, silkscreen ink and silver paint on linen, 84 by 71 1/2
inches, 1963. It has an estimate of $15,000,000 to $20,000,000.
It sold for $15,721,000.
The sale was very successful
with 62 of the 67 offered lots selling for a total of $325,006,000
including the buyers' premiums. The pre-sale estimate without
the buyer's premium was $242,750,000 to $338,350,000. Christopher
Burge, the auctioneer, described this auction and last week's
Impressionist and Modern Art evening auction at Christie's as
"remarkable." "We felt fine last week and finer
this week," he said, in response to a question at the post-auction
news conference about the state of the art market especially in
light of the disappointing Impressionist and Modern Art evening
auction at Sotheby's (see The
City Review article).
Of the 62 lots that sold at this auction, 51 sold for more than
$1 million each, a statistic that Mr. Burge joyfully described
as "not bad." "It was more of the most exciting
sales," Mr. Burge said, adding that "the market is absolutely
Lot 64 is a Warhol diptych
of "Truman Capote," that measures overall 20 by 32 inches.
Executed in 1979, it is a synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink
on canvas. It has an estimate of $700,000 to $1,000,000. It
sold for $825,000.
Continuing on a serious note
- Warhol's important flip side - "Little Electric Chair,"
Lot 42, and the terrifyingly graphic "Ambulance Disaster,"
Lot 60, from his "Death and Disaster Series," echo his
now iconic and equally macabre "Green Car Crash," that
set a world auction record for the artist in May, 2007 when it
sold for a staggering $71,720,000 (see
The City Review article). Lot 42 has an estimate of $5,000,000
to $7,000,000. It sold for $5,641,000. Lot 60 has an estimate
of $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. It sold for $825,000.
Lot 6, "Piney Woods Nurse,"
is an 80-by-52-inch ink-jet print and acrylic on canvas by Richard
Prince (b. 1949). Executed in 2002, it has an estimate of $1,800,000
to $2,200,000. It sold for $6,089,000, more than twice the
artist's previous aucton record of $2,840,000 set at Christie's
Lot 27, Coup de Chapeau II"
is a striking painted and patinated bronze by Roy Lichtenstein
(1923-1997). Executed in 1996, it measures 91 by 30 by 13 1/4
inches and is number six of an edition of six. It has an estimate
of $1,800,000 to $2,200,000. It sold for $2,841,000.
The big "blue" diamond
sculpture by Koons (b. 1955) is Lot 24 and the stainless steel
sculpture measures 78 by 87 by 87 inches. It was executed from
1994 to 2005 and has an "estimate on request." The catalogue
entry for the lot notes that it "takes bling bling to crazy
and cartoonish new levels" and is part of the artist's Celebration
series. It has an "estimate on request" and sold
for $11,801,000 to Larry Gagosian, a new auction record for Koons.
The previous record for Koons was $5,615,750 set at Sotheby's
in New York May 15, 2001.
Lot 8 is ""Bloodline
Series: Mother with Three Sons (The Family Portrait)," by
Zhang Xiagang (b. 1958). An oil on canvas, it measures 58 3/4
by 70 3/4 inches and was painted in 1993. It has an estimate of
$1,800,000 to $2,200,000. It sold for $3,961,000, well over
his previous auction record of $3,065,000 set at Sotheby's September
The catalogue states that this
painting "is a rare and exceptional work inlcuing one of
the earliest treametns of the Bloodlines imagery and them"
"Inspired by aging family photographs taken during the Cultural
Revolution (1866-1976), the figures are based directly on images
of Zhang's own mother and his childhood friends. Unlike the more
stylized later works, here signs of individuality are retained
with such idiosyncratic details as the slightly wayward pupil
or the unruly cowlick. Zhang had originally intended to paint
the work only in black and white, but decided instead to add the
surrealistic pink and yellow hues of the flesh. Zhang has said
that his favoirte natural colors have always been the colors of
roses, and that he altered the figures' skin tones to signal their
purity ofs pirit and character. Zhang further adds a humble faux-bamboo
frame long the edge of the canvas, along with the musical notation
for a popular song he enjoyed while painting the work."
Continuing the portrait theme
was "Ib and Her Husband," Lot 9, by Lucien Freud (b.
1922), oil on canvas, 66 1/4 by 57 1/4 inches. Executed in 1992,
it has an "estimate upon request" and is a moving, intimate
view of the artist's daughter Isabel and her partner. It sold
for !9,361,000, nicely above his previous auction record of $15,533,596
set at Christie's in London last June.
Lot 49, "Fait d'Hiver,"
is a large 1988 porcelain by Jeff Koons (b. 1955). It measures
19 1/2 by 63 by 31 1/2 inches and is an artist's proof from an
edition of three plus one artist's proof. The work was part of
the artist's famous Banality series. It has an estimate
of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $4,297,000.
Lot 26, "Sugar Ray Robinson,"
by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) is an animated work in high
octane colors, depicting the legendary athlete in orange silk
"boxer" shorts, now a staple of the male wardrobe, although
few examples would be quite so dazzling. The lot has an estimate
of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. It sold for $7,321,000.
Lichtenstein's "Coup de
Chapeu II" is shown above in an earlier installation with
Donald Judd's wall-climbing "Untitled, 1979, (79-40 Bernstein),"
Lot 32, 10 units of galvanized iron and transparent red plexiglass.
Lot 32 was executed in 1979 and has an estimate of $7,000,000
to $9,000,000. It failed to sell.
Changing lanes, the auction
has several works by Mark Rothko (1903-1970). Lot 12 is a fabulous
abstraction entitled "Untitled (Red, Blue, Orange)."
An oil on canvas, it measures 66 5/8 by 49 3/8 inches and was
painted in 1955. It has an estimate of $20,000,000 to $30,000,000.
It sold for $34,201,000.
Another major Rothko, Lot 36,
"No. 7 (Dark over Light)," has the same estimate. An
oil on canvas, it measures 90 1/4 by 58 3/4 inches and was painted
in 1954. It sold for $21,041,000. Smaller and cooler is
Lot 18, "Green, Blue, Green on Blue," a 1968 acrylic
on paper laid down on canvas that measures 40 1/2 by 26 12 inches.
It has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000. It sold for
$6,089,000, a world auction record for a work on paper by Rothko.
The previous record was $408,000 set at Sotheby's in New York
May 10, 2005.
Lot 43 is a luscious oil on
canvas by Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) entitled "Untitled
XXIII." It measures 70 by 80 inches and was painted in 1977.
It has an estimate of $16,000,000 to $19,000,000 and was once
in the collection of Adriana and Robert Mnuchin. It sold for
$19,921,000. Another smaller de Kooning, "Untitled XVII,"
Lot 19, also painted in 1977, is estimated at $7,000,000 to $9,000,000.
It measures 60 by 54 1/4 inches. It sold for $19,361,000.
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) is
represented in the auction with several works, the most dramatic
of which is Lot 16, "Dusenjager," from his "Military
Aircraft Series" of 1963-4. An oil on canvas, it measures
and has an estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. It sold
for $11,241,000 setting a new auction record for Richter whose
previous auction record was $6,200,000 set at Christie's last
Lot 22 "Abstraktes Bild,
(559-2)," is a dark and dramatic 1984 abstraction by Richter.
An oil on canvas, it measures 78 3/4 by 118 inches and has an
estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000. It sold for $4,969,000.
Another Richter abstraction, Lot 10, was painted in 1986 and
has an estimate of $3,000,000 to $5,000,000. It sold for $3,849,000.
Lot 34, "Atlantic Side,"
is a strong abstraction by Joan Mitchell (1025-1992). An oil on
canvas, it measures 87 by 84 inches and was painted in 1960. It
has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $5,081,000.
Lot 38 is a very strong, untitled
abstraction by Jasper Johns (b. 1930). The oil on joined canvas
and wood slats and hinges measures 73 3/4 by 100 inches and was
executed 1965-7. It has an estimate of $4,000,000 to $6,000,000.
It sold for $4,857,000.
Lot 17 is a bold and beautiful
abstraction by Lee Krasner (1908-1984) entitled "Thaw."
An oil on canvas, it measures 57 by 58 1/4 inches and was painted
in 1957. It has an estimate of $800,000 to $1,200,000. It sold
Lot 28 is a strong and eerily
prophetic oil and graphite on canvas by Ed Ruscha (b. 1937), entitled
"Burning Gas Station." It measures 20 1/2 by 39 inches
and was painted in 1965-6. It has an estimate of $4,000,000 to
$6,000,000. It sold for $6,985,000, a new auction record that
far surpassed the artist's prior record of $3,591,500 set at Christie's
May 11, 2004.
For those who are considering
purchasing the Koons, there are two accessories that must accompany
it. First, a gigantic crane so that it can be moved around, and
second, barrels of car polish, which these two gentlemen lovingly
applied with soft rags, taking great care to remove their shoes
in frigid temperatures. They had many interested onlookers.
When asked how often the gigantic
blue rock had to be cleaned they replied "once a week."