$75 Million Rothko Leads Sotheby’s Record-Setting Sale

Posted November 14th, 2012 under Abstract Art, Auctions, News


A seminal work by abstract artist Mark Rothko fetched a huge $75.1 million at Sotheby’s Tuesday, while a new record was set for a Jackson Pollock drip painting as the big spenders came out in force.

“No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue)” is seen by critics as one of the finest examples of Rothko’s characteristic style — a seemingly simple, but arresting juxtaposition of blocks of color.

The winning bid, reached after a prolonged bidding battle in New York, was short of the record $86.9 million paid for Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow” at Christie’s in May. But it was far over the pre-sale $35-50 million estimate and highlighted a contemporary art auction full of big prizes.

The work described by Sotheby’s as Rothko’s “seminal, large-scale masterpiece” was selected by the artist for his landmark 1954 solo show at the Art Institute of Chicago and had been in the same collection for 30 years before coming to market.

The heated auction also saw Jackson Pollock’s “Number 4, 1951,” estimated at $25-35 million, sell for $40.4 million, easily breaking the previous $23 million record for works by the abstract expressionist.

Francis Bacon brought it home with his dark “Pope” fetching $29.8 million, well past the $18-25 million estimate. The Irish-born British painter’s “Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne” got $9.3 million, inside the low end of the estimate.

In other action, Gerhard Richter’s “Abstraktes Bild” sold for $17.4 million, and Willem de Kooning’s “Abstraction” sold for $19.7 million, compared to the pre-sale estimates of $15-20 million.

The always bankable Andy Warhol had a strong showing with “Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice),” selling for $15.2 million, and $9.3 million for the Pop king’s “The Kiss (Bela Lugosi).”

Warhol’s “Suicide,” estimated to sell for between $6-8 million, ended up at $16.3 million.

It was even an auction for some of the supposedly smaller fry to shine.

“Ohne Titel (Silverbild),” a stormy looking canvas done in silver, silver nitrate, silver oxide and resin by German artist Sigmar Polke, was estimated to go for between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

Final price? A whopping $4.1 million.

The roaring sale of contemporary art was in stark contrast to quiet sales of impressionist works at auctions in New York last week. On Wednesday, Christie’s New York holds its contemporary sale.


Auction of works from the Andy Warhol Foundation fetches over $17 million at Christie’s New York


On Monday, Christie’s held a separate, $17 million sale of Warhols as part of a planned sell-off of the Andy Warhol Foundation’s entire collection.

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts announced in September that it was dispersing of its collection to bolster its grant-making capabilities, with Christie’s the long-term partner. Some of the works will be donated to museums.

The first in a series of live and online auctions to raise money for the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York collected over $17 million Monday. The auction at Christie’s featured 354 works by Warhol ranging from prints to photographs, some of which have not been seen by the public. Online auctions will begin in February.

Leading the sale was “Endangered Species: San Francisco Silverspot,” a print that fetched over $1.2 million, Christie’s said. Other highlights included “Jackie,” a screen print and paper collage of Jacqueline Kennedy that sold for over $626,000, more than double its high estimate of $300,000. Christie’s said the auction saw a strong demand for unique photographs and prints with many exceeding high estimates, including “Self-Portrait in Fright Wig,” estimated at $12,000 to $18,000, which sold for $50,000.

The foundation said the money raised for its endowment from the sales would allow it to expand support of the visual arts, fulfilling Warhol’s purpose in establishing it. “The new level of global access to Andy Warhol’s work that this series of sales makes possible, along with the bolstering of our philanthropic base, makes this an important moment for the Foundation and indeed for the world of art,” said Joel Wachs, President of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Michael Straus, the foundation’s Chairman of the Board, welcomed the results of the first auction. “It has allowed us to increase our grant-making capacity at a time when the arts community needs support and has engaged an ever-expanding audience with the art of Andy Warhol,” Straus said.

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