Contemporary Art

Part 2


May 19, 1999

Untilted by David Smith

Lot 256, "Untitled," by David Smith, 1963,

spray paint on canvas, 19 by 13 inches

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 high estimate.

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 $101, 500.

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.


"Untitled" by Adolph Gottlieb

Lot 227, "Untitled," by Adolph Gottlieb, 1970,

acrylic on paper, 23 3/4 by 18 3/4 inches

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.

Fast Sketch Still Life with Abstract Painting by Tom Wesselman

Lot 299, "Fast Sketch Still Life With Abstract Painting,"

by Tom Wesselman, 1989, oil on cut-out aluminum

A very fine Nevelson sculpture, Lot 209, one of an edition of six, fell short of its low estimate and sold for $27,600.

See The City Review article of the Christie's evening auction of Contemporary Art, May 19, 1999

See The City Review article on the Christie's Contemporary Art Part 2 auction, May 20, 1999

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