Christie’s Contemporary Sale Nets $691.6 M., Auction Record, With Bacon, Koons in Front

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Sold: $58.4 million | Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994–2000

Last night Christie’s New York hosted the highest-grossing auction ever with a fall postwar and contemporary art evening sale that brought in $691.6 million and included a new all-time high for a publicly traded artwork, Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon (1969), which sold for $142.4 million with premium to Acquavella Galleries. The two-hour auction also saw Jeff Koons become the world’s most expensive artist with the sale of Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994–2000) for $58.4 million, the second-most-expensive lot of the evening, which included eight other artist records, for Wade Guyton, Christopher Wool, Vija Celmins, Lucio Fontana, Ad Reinhardt, Donald Judd, Willem de Kooning and Wayne Thiebaud. Read More


Bacon Triptych Makes $142.4 M. at Christie’s, Record for Art at Auction


The art market entered uncharted territory tonight at Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters, where auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen sold Francis Bacon’s 1969 triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud for $142.4 million, an all-time record for a work of art at auction, easily beating the $119.9 million paid for a pastel of Edvard Munch’s The Scream at Sotheby’s New York in May 2012. (Accounting for inflation, you can argue that figure, but in raw dollars, Bacon’s now the record holder.) Read More


Led by $10.8 M. Lichtenstein, Phillips Earns Solid $68 M. in Contemporary Art Sale

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Sold: $8.01 million | David Hammons, Untitled, 2000

After an uneven pair of Impressionist and modern sales last week in New York, at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Phillips kicked off this week’s postwar and contemporary sales with an auction tonight at its East 57th Street headquarters that brought in $68 million, with 35 of 40 lots; a solid 88 percent of the artworks found buyers. That total, which includes buyer’s premiums of between 12 percent and 25 percent depending on the price of the lot, was just good enough to edge into the sale’s $65.1 million to $97.4 million estimate, which is calculated sans premium, but was a modest drop from Phillips’s $79.9 million haul at the same auction last November, when it was still known as Phillips de Pury & Company. Read More


‘Rendered Speechless': Brett Gorvy Has a Lot to Say About This Week’s Auctions

Gorvy with a work by Paul McCarthy.

Folks, there is effusiveness, and then there is Brett Gorvy.

Christie’s head of postwar and contemporary art has gotten rather, shall we say, excited about the artworks the house is auctioning this season. So excited that he had to tell the world—well, the art world—about it. His poetic musings took the form of two letters, one (“Speechless from New York – A Note From Brett Gorvy”) that landed in inboxes last week, just before the Impressionist-modern auction and another (“Final Thoughts on Tomorrow’s Sale”) that arrived today, on the eve of tomorrow’s big postwar and contemporary sale. Yes, there is practical stuff in these letters (“We have encouraged our consignors to set consciously conservative estimates”). But it is leavened with such romantic sentiments as “It is easy in this profession to fall in love with the objects over which we are brief guardians.” Never in our history of covering the art market (and, dear reader, we are pretty old) have we read such reverential outpourings from an auction house professional. The cynic in us wants to say, “Snap out of it, Brett!” But there is another, very real part that wants other specialists to, you know, speak from the yearnings in their hearts or whatever. Read the highlights of Mr. Gorvy’s letters below, and swoon with us. Read More


Top Lots Fail at Christie’s Disappointing $144.3 M. Imp-Mod Sale

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Sold: $12.6 million | Wassily Kandinsky, Schwarz und Violett, 1923

Christie’s kicked off the official start of the fall auction season Tuesday night with a lackluster Impressionist and modern sale that saw 12 of the 46 lots on offer fail to sell, among them a number of high-profile and high-estimate pieces. It earned a total of $144.3 million that, while respectable, failed to meet the house’s low estimate of $188.8 million (which is calculated without the approximately 12 percent buyer’s premium), to say nothing of its $277.7 million high estimate. Read More


Lucien Smith Senior Thesis Work Leads Phillips Evening Sale


The 24-year-old Lucien Smith has been hot of late, with recent solo shows at Salon 94 and The Suzanne Geiss Company, so maybe it shouldn’t surprise that the upcoming contemporary art sale at Phillips is opening with one of his paintings. Still, it’s pretty remarkable that the lot is a work he made as a student: Hobbes, The Rain Man, and My Friend Barney / Under the Sycamore Tree (2011), which first appeared in Mr. Smith’s 2011 senior thesis show at Cooper Union, “Imagined Nostalgia.” The painting, which is estimated to sell for $100,000 to $150,000, will hit the block on Nov. 11, almost exactly a year after Mr. Smith’s first New York solo show at Half Gallery. Read More


Christie’s Saatchi Sale Flops

A sculpture by Martin Honert from the sale. (Courtesy Christie's)

The Financial Times reports that Charles Saatchi’s “everything must go” sale of large sculpture at Christie’s, marketed as “Thinking Big,” did not meet anyone’s expectations, with many pieces selling for just a fraction of their reported value. Read More