By Michele Leight
Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York on May 11 leads with Andy Warhol's dramatic red and black "Self-Portrait," in his signature Fright wig from 1986, and includes another four-panel "Self Portrait" in blue tones from 1963-64. Other masterpieces by Warhol, Francis Bacon, Cy Twombly, Richard Diebenkorn, and Mark Rothko are joined by a diminutive gem of a drawing by Roy Lichtenstein that was "won" by its present owner for $10 at an art event, and is expected to realize $1 million dollars. It is a sketch for a famous painting. Works by contemporary artists Gerhard Richter, Richard Prince, and Jean-Michel Basquiat are offered alongside cutting-edge artworks by Cindy Sherman, Mark Bradford, Chris Ofili, and Urs Fischer, whose "Untitled (Lamp/Bear)" is hard to miss outside the Seagram Building in New York, where it is currently on view to the public.
Christie's Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale is expected to achieve in the region of $230 to $300 million dollars,
The sale was a blockbuster success, achieving $301,683,000, "the second highest total for Contemporary Art since 2008" said Brett Gorvy, Christie's International Co-Head, Deputy Chairman, Americas (see the review of the 2008 auction on this site). Of the 65 lots offered, 62 sold and 3 passed. It was 95 percent sold by lot, and 99 percent sold by value.
The top lot of the sale was Lot 22, "Self-Portrait," (1963-64), by Andy Warhol, which sold for $$38,442,500 (with a pre-sale estimate of $20,000,000 to $30,000,000). There was prolonged bidding for this painting, which is illustrated at the top of this story. "It was a marathon auction - and the longest bidding war in the 16 years I have worked at Christie's," he said. The ultimate bidding war was for Lot 22, which Christopher Burge handled with his usual professionalism and good humor. Lot 22, "Self-Portrait," also by Andy Warhol, is the earliest of his self-portraits, and has been widely exhibited at MoMA and the Pompidou Center, and some of the world's most prestigious museums. It was commissioned by Florence Barron and is Property of The Barron Family Collection.
Confidence in Andy Warhol was - once again - very evident tonight: " 8 lots by Warhol sold for $91 million dollars,"said Brett Gorvy.
"There has been a lot of talk in the media about Warhol: 'How many Warhol's can you sell?' The answer is as many as people want to buy. Warhol speaks all languages. The people that buy Warhols are all ages and all nationalities," said. Brett Gorvy.
Lot 16, "Self-Portrait," by Andy Warhol (1986) has an estimate in the region of $30,000,000-40,000,000 dollars. It sold for $27,522,500. It's provenance includes the legendary dealer/gallerist Anthony d'Offay, London, where this work was exhibited, and Galerie Beyeler, Basel, where it was aquired by the present owner.
Lot 8, "Untitled No. 17" by Mark Rothko sold for $$33,682,500.
Buyers were 61% American; 21% European and 3% Asian.
Amy Cappellazzo was justifiably elated by the world auction record (for any photograph) by Cindy Sherman's "Untitled," (1981), which sold for $3,890,500. Other world auction records were set for Richard Diebenkorn, Anselm Kiefer, Cy Twombly, Urs Fischer and Andy Warhol (world auction record for any portrait by the artist).
Robert Manley, Head of Department, Contemporary Art, New York said the outstanding result of this evening's sale "was a team effort."
The diminutive sketch - six by six inches - illustrated above, Lot 21, "Drawing for Kiss V" was for a famous painting from his 1960s women series by Roy Lichtenstein, and has been in private hands for almost 50 years. How it came into the possession of its owner is a story worth sharing: "The present owner acquired the work as part of an event organized by the Artist's Key club - a group formed by the artist Arman to fight against the art world's increasing commercialization. Alan Kaprow recalled how the group was brought together, 'One of the issues in the art world of the time was whether to stay in the gallery/museum ambiance or not. In 1965, Penn Station was undergoing renovations. Large sections of wall space, including some banks of lockers, were curtained off with painting drop cloths. When we first checked out the station, we saw those lockers and together hit on the idea of secreting small works of art (A. Kaprow, quoted in B. Chernow, 'Christo and Jeanne-Claude: An Authorized Biography," New York, 2000, p.156). The event invite asked participants to go to the Hotel Chelsea in New York and hand over $10 in return for a key to one of the lockers at Penn Station. Inside each of these lockers was a work that a fellow artist had donated, including Roy Lichtenstein, Arman, Christo, Niki de Saint-Phalle and Andy Warhol. No one knew which locker they would be allocated, or what it contained. The drawing's current owner worked as a typist at the art publisher Harry N. Abrams, Inc. and was invited to attend the event with a girlfriend. She paid her $10 and duly went to Penn Station with her key and upon opening the locker was rewarded with this exquisite drawing, which has been in private hands ever since."(Christie's catalogue for this sale)
Lot 21,"Drawing for Kiss V" has an estimate of $800,000-1.200,000. It sold for an astonishing $2,098,500!
Lot 25, "Untitled," by Cy Twombly, 1967, is a blackboard painting in oil based house paint and wax on canvas
It sold for $15,202,500, a world auction record for the artist.
Lot 22, "Self-Portrait," by Andy Warhol, (illustrated at the top of this story), circa 1963-64, is a four paneled or "multiple" painting in blues in which he is wearing wayfarer sunglasses and looks impossibly young - which he was. Lot 22 was commissioned by the art collector Florence Barron, who turned the tables on Warhol by asking him to paint a portrait of himself, not her, as he was expecting. Lot 22 contains an inscripton on the reverse "To Mrs. B Andy 64."
Christie's catalogue for this sale includes a fascinating interview between Brett Gorvy and Guy and Nora Barron about the formidable collector and passionate art lover who snagged this world-famous self-portrait of Andy Warhol, in which Gorvy asks:
"As collectors was it very much her vision or was there a partnership between your parents?"
Guy Barron replies: "It was really my mother's eye and passion. She had first been exposed to art while studying at the Connecticut College for Women. She was mercilessly teased by some of their friends because her heroes at that time were artists such as Marc Chagall, Paul Klee and Joan Miro. This was the late 1920s and anybody that professed a love for that kind of art was considered to have radical taste. She was intimidated early on by what other people said of her taste. But as her style and opinions matured, she decided to never again be bothered or influenced by what someone else thought. So she began collecting contemporary art primarily through her relationships with artists who were even poorer than she. These friendships were helped by her bringing tuna fish sandwiches, pizza, beer and maybe even a bottle of wine for them. She climbed all kinds of stairwells in order to get to the artist's living quarters. She fed their stomachs and they lit her soul."
Florence Barron certainly knew how to pick winners, but there is also a love story recounted by their son in the interview that lingers. Brooks Barron was from a humble background. Guy Barron tells Brett Gorvy:
"He met my mother waiting tables at a summer resort in the Catskills. They had a wonderfully romantic story. He would travel 600 miles to see my mother, and was so short of money, that he had to ride the train rails to get to her. In winter he rode behind the coal car. In warmer weather he rode on top of the rails below the wheel carriage. My mother loved to tell the story that when he walked off the train in Hartford he had so much black soot in his white hair, that she just didn't dare bring him home without first taking him to a public washroom." Brooks Barron became a lawyer, and Florence continued to invent creative ways to afford her art purchases, that were lifeblood to her. Guy Barron says: "She became an interior designer which helped pay for her art purchases, and soon she was buying art for her clients. Meanwhile, my father had become a successful real estate developer and they established themselves as respected members of the Detroit community. But they were different people, from very different backgrounds....." Brooks Barron did not necessarily understand some of his wife's art purchases! Guy Barron tells Brett Gorvy: "My mother was always ahead of the field. I remember when she bought a Dan Flavin, people thought she had lost her mind, and then she bought their large blackboard by Cy Twombly in 1968, a year after it was painted. My father knew that my mother had great taste, but was never totally sure of what motivated her and what she saw. When the Twombly came into our home, my father was certain that she had gone off the deep end. It was not until museum directors from all over the country began to pay attention to what was in our home, and were so solicitous of my mother, that my father, who they assumed had played a role in the selections - which he hadn't - all of a sudden realized, "Oh my gosh, I'm going to give her free reign, because this is incredible."
Becoming a real collector is not easy, however, as this story affirms.
When Brett Gorvy asked: "Do you remember your own reaction to the painting? (Lot 16, "Self-Portrait," by Andy Warhol, 1963-64), Guy Barron says:
You have to realize that Andyand his portrait have been a guest inour home for forty-seven years. And when you live with somebody that long, it is hard to break out the beginning, the middle and the end of your story together. Obviously over time, Andy has become more and more important, and he and this self-image have become wildly famous. The first real moment that we recognized its wider significance was in 1990 when the painting was chosen as the cover for the catalogue of the major Warhol retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Pompidou in Paris."
In addition to the two museums cited above, "Andy Warhol: A Retrospective," February 1989-September 1990, also traveled to The Hayward Gallery in London, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, The Art Institute of Chicago and Palazzo Grassi in Venice. Lot 22 has been exhibited so widely it is not possible to include all the venues here. They are cited in the catalogue for this sale and there is a marvellous photograph of this self-portrait as the banner for "Andy Warhol: A Factory Exhibition" from 1998-2000, at the Guggenheim, Bilbao, courtesy of The Andy Warhol Foundation. This level of exposure may help explain Warhol's global appeal, which only grows. His paintings have been shown in many countries, and are wildly popular - of course. They appeal to the masses, across all borders and boundaries. Warhol has become as iconic as the subjects he chose to paint. He would dig that.
Lot 22, "Self-portrait" from 1963-64, is a flashback to the younger Andy Warhol, hiding behind his sunglasses at the height of his fame. In his essay "The Birth of Cool," in the catalogue for this sale, Brett Gorvy writes: " Alongside Egon Schiele, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol is one of the great 20th Century masters of the self-portrait. For an artist who so loathed his own self-image that he often resorted to make-up, wigs and even plastic surgery to disguise and hide himself, this makes his self-portraiture even more engaging as we try to deconstruct the real Andy Warhol behind the polite but wittily obtuse and evasive public persona. Andy Warhol's four-paneled , 1963-64, is acclaimed in every Warhol monograph and exhibition catalogue as his first seminal self-portrait. It ranks not only as one of the most iconic and enigmatic portrayals of the artist's own image, but its multi-panel format and use of mechanically-produced photographic imagery are also acknowledged as the most radical advancements of portraiture since Cubism."
The two portraits by Warhol are bookends of his life - the very first and last portraits he made. If anyone understood the fickleness of celebrity and the ephemeral nature of fame it was Warhol, who was not doing well before his late self-portraits were made.
Stunning Lot 16, "Self-Portrait," in red and black, circa 1986, (illustrated at the top of this story), depicts the aging artist in 1986. Its wall power is astonishing, magnificent. A transcript from an interview with Anthony d'Offay is included in the catalog for this sale:
"I was always saying to him (Warhol), I want to do a big show of yours in London, 'what would you like to show...' and he would say to me 'I'll do whatever you want...' So, I had to pick something and it took me a long time to come up with this completely obvious idea of a self-portrait. It was years since he had done a great self-portrait, and believe it or not, and the end of his life, nobody had a good word to say for him. Whether they were august museum directors, or collectors, or the general public. He was considered a has-been. It was considered that he had done nothing good or important since Mao...in 1972. So I felt it was behoven on me ...if I was going to work with him, to make a great proposal to him for a really important work, to propose to him the self-portraits and for that to be a colossal success. And you know they went all over the world to great collections and museums. There's one hanging in the Metropolitan, there's one hanging in the Guggenheim...'" (Anthony D'Offay, "Tate Shots," Video, Tate Modern, London, 2002)
Warhol died unexpectedly in 1987, a year after Lot 16, "Self-Portrait," (1986), was created.
Nothing could be further removed from Warhol's self portrait than Francis Bacon's tortured likeness of himself, executed in his famously virtuoso style - Bacon really could paint like the Old Masters, and he was a superb colorist as well. Lot 36, "Three Studies for Self-Portrait," illustrated above, has an estimate on request. It sold for $25,282,500.
Lot 13, "Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail)," by Francis Bacon, 1952, illustrated above, has an estimate of $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. It sold for $9,602,500. It also has an interesting story. Brett Gorvy said it was found in an old studio used by Bacon - rolled up.
For those that have not yet seen it, there is still time. Lot 32, "Untitled (Lamp/Bear)," by Urs Fischer, is seated patiently in the plaza of Mies Van der Rohe's magnificent Seagram Building on Park Avenue. The "lamp" is lit at night. Lot 32 has an estimate upon request. It sold for $6,802,500, a world auction record for the artist.
Lot 14, "Wolken Rosa," by Gerhard Richter,
Lot 14, "Wolken Rosa," by Gerhard Richter, has an estimate of $3,000,000-4,000,000. It sold for $5,010,500.
Lot 2,"Untitled," by Christopher Wool, illustrated above, has an estimate of $1,200,000-$1,800,000. It sold for $$1,930,500. On the right is Lot 18, Dem Unbekannten Maler (To the Unknown Painter), by Anselm Kiefer, one of the best paintings by the artist to come to auction. It has an estimate of $2,000,000-3,000,000. It sold for $3,554,500, a world auction record for the artist.
The photographs here document the next wave of - living - contemporary artists, and demonstrate the superb quality of works on offer at this sale. Sadly it is not possible to describe them all in detail. It is evident, however, that the current torch bearers hold their own with the heavyweights, offering up the full spectrum of delights, darkness, innovation, quirkiness, virtuosity and provocation the arts have generated through the centuries. Arts magical powers have - to borrow a phrase from Guy Barron - "filled our souls" since the dawn of civilization.
Provocation is a word often used to denigrate contemporary art, yet every generation, decade and century has had its provocateurs.Those that cannot bear to be provoked generally do not like contemporary art. They buy art that goes with their sofa and cushion covers, which is their right. Wonderful Lot 65, "A Model of Delicacy," by Jim Hodges has an estimate of $800,000-1,200,000, and is illustrated below. This was one of the finest works of art in the sale, so it was a heartbreaker to see that it was passed at $700,000. Art, like life, is mercurial, but this sublime constellation of spiders webs and flowers is no less superb because it did not meet its pricetag. Its buyer was just not present on this night.
Jean-Michel Basquiat's superb Lot 19, "Gas Truck," has an estimate of $4,000,000-6,000,000, and its stellar provenance includes Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich. "Gas Truck, whose imagery owes so much to the genius of Jean Dubuffet and Jackson Pollock, is illustrated earlier amongst stories of Andy Warhol, who he idolized. It seemed appropriate to place Basquiat in the midst of stories about Warhol. They were friends, and collaborated on many paintings, and Basquiat was also a legendary "enfant terrible" with prodigious talent. It sold for $4,674,500.
Lot 41, "The Devil is Beating His Wife," by Mark Bradford has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. It sold for $542,500. in front of it is Lot 43, "Airports Are Like Nightclubs," by Urs Fischer. The disembodied figure runs its fingers through its hair every few minutes like the weird humans in Mars Attacks. Lot 43 has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $602,500.
Lot 42, Barnaby Furnas' "Hamburger Hill," is a masterpiece created in graphite and urethane on canvas - it hardly seems possible that these virtuoso effects are not fashioned from something infinitely more magical. It is as if Merlin the Magician decided to paint and went wild! It is both beautiful and provocative.Lot 42 has an estimate of $400,000-$600,000. It sold for $350,000.
Somehow the word "provocative" describes all artists that have left their mark on art history. Warhol inserted himself into the "oevre" of the Abstract Expressionists with strategic timing and precision, as if sensing it was time to try and dislodge the current status quo. This push-pull goes on throughout art history, but perhaps never more so than when abstraction hit museum and gallery walls. Abstract Expressionism was so radical when it first appeared there literally had never been anything like it. Who could even think of dis-lodging Picasso, Braque and Matisse from their pedestels as the high-priests of the art establishment, The fabled School of Paris? The Abstract Expressionists did of course dislodge the reigning art establishment of their day, but many, like de Kooning, took much of what he had learned from them - and Cubism - and deployed it in his furious, passionate and now iconic semi-abstract images.
Lot 59, "Mirror (Torso)," by Isamu Noguchi sold for $1,022,500. On the right is Lot 11, "Painter's City," by Philip Guston. It sold for $6,578,500.
Lot 64, "Untitled (Infinity Nets),"
by Yayoi Kusama, the meticulously, ethereal painting illustrated
above, has an estimate of $350,000-450,000. It sold for $902,500.
In front of it is Lot 57, "White Feather, Orange and
Red Discs," by Alexander Calder. It has an estimate of $500,000-700,000.
It sold for $1,142,500.
Lot 3, "Ahh...Youth," by Mike Kelly, the cuddly toy parade illustrated above is by Mike Kelly. on the left is Lot 53, "Homage to Greece," by Agnes Martin.
Cindy Sherman's iconic Lot 6, "Untitled," from 1981, is shown here, and will be included in an upcoming retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in 2012. It is from her famous "Centerfolds" series, commissioned by Artforum in 1981 as a special project for the magazine. . Christie's catalog for this sale notes: "the twelve images are among the most important of Sherman's career. This particular image is one of the most sought-after and is appearing at auction for the first time. Its significance within Sherman's body of work is demonstrated by its includion in the permanent collection of many prestigious museums, including New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Akron Museum in Ohio, and the Museum Boijvans in Rotterdam. It has been widely exhibited, including at The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lot 6 has an estimate of $1,500,000-2,000,000. It sold for a staggering $3,890,500.
When Amy Cappellazzo, Christie's International Co-Head, Deputy Chairman, Americas, was asked by a member of the press if the number in the edition affected its value at auction, she said "No, all the numbers in the edition are worth the same." This print is number 10 out of an edition of 10 color coupler prints.
As is often the case in Sherman's work, she is the model for the centerfold, and the entire image is contrived. Christies's catalog for this sale notes: "Although she designed these images to resemble quick snap-shots of a teenager's life, she heavily choreographed, acted and staged them herself. She is both the subject and executor of these images, and she takes the utmost care in both, as she develops her various guises and produces each photograph. She will dress the set, produce the costumes, design the lighting and finally execute the photograph entirely by herself, in her solitary world, without the use of assistants. By controlling every aspect of the image's production, she dispels the long held belief that photography is the medium of 'truth.' She exposes it as being as manipulative as any other artistic medium."(Christie's catalog for this sale.
Although we know there is a floor beneath the teeager, she looks like she is floating because of the strange angle from which she has been photographed - all choreographed by Sherman. This makes her look vulnerable, exposed - and the viewer feel like an interloper, a creepy voyeur. Sherman's "Centerfolds" are her "take" on girlie magazines, this one being an adolescent teenage girl who is not offering herself up to the male gaze with full-frontal nudity. She closer than any girlie magazine centerfold, but inaccessible, and not quite ready for what she is projecting with her red lips and upturned hem. But her faraway look suggests she might be fantasizing about it . There is no comfort in many of Sherman's images, nowhere to hide from their emptiness, often manifested by the blank, masklike stares of her subjects - if they make eye-contact at all. This teenager is suspended in time and space, emotionally endearing, yet vacuous: "Sherman took perceived notions of identity and turned them on their head, innovatively testing the cultural and conceptual boundaries of her chosen medium. However hard we try, we can never tell exactly what is happening behind the mask that Sherman creates. The 'Centerfolds' series, and 'Untitled" in particular, mark a high point in her career and unlock her entire exploration of identity." (Christie's catalog for this sale)
Art definitely filled the soul of this happy beauty, posing in front of a sculpture that will be offered in Christie's day sale.
See The City Review article on The Collection of Allan Stone auction at Sotheby's May 9, 2011
See The City Review article on the Carte Blanche auction curated by Philippe Ségalot at Phillips de Pury November 8, 2010
See The City Review article on the Contemporary Art evening auction Part I at Phillips de Pury Pury following the Ségalot auction
City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art evening
auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art day auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art evening auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Contemporary Art day auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2010 Contemporary Art day auction at Phillips de Pury