Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sotheby's Auction -- Warhol, Koons (From May 11 -- Two Notes Below

Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art, was very pleased with the sale total of $128,104,500. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- “We are very pleased with our sale total of $128,104,500,” said Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art. “The results came within our pre-sale estimate of $120.8/171.4 million, and we had a strong sell-through rate of 84.5% by lot, with 58 lots offered and 47 lots sold. These results follow the impressive total of $54.8 million achieved last night for works from the Collection of Allan Stone, bringing our overall two-day total to $182,910,000, securely within our overall estimate of $153.6/218.2 million.”

“It was a good night for Andy Warhol,” [1] said Alex Rotter, Director of Sotheby’s New York Contemporary Art department. “We sold six out of the seven Warhol works on offer tonight, together bringing over $31 million. The sale was led by Sixteen Jackies, which sold for $20,242,500. There was extremely competitive bidding for Shadow (Red), which was vied for by four bidders and sold for $4.8 million, more than five times the high estimate. We saw solid prices for Statue of Liberty – $3,442,500 – and Round Jackie from the Collection of Dodie Rosekrans – $3,722,500.”

Jeff Koons’ Pink Panther, one of the most important works by the artist ever to have appeared at auction, sold for $16,882,500 [2]. The price is many multiples of the $1.8 million the work fetched when it last appeared at auction in 1999. The porcelain sculpture is the artist’s proof from an edition of three, with the other examples in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and a prominent private American collection.

The sale saw a number of strong prices for art from the last 30 years, including Eroica I by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Painted in 1988 – the final year of the artist’s life – the work sold for $5,906,500 (est. $3.5/4.5 million). Shades by Mark Tansey, which depicts an allegory from Plato’s Republic, fetched $3,442,500 (est. $3/4 million). Leading a group of photographs in the sale was Rhein I, one of Andreas Gursky’s most famous images, which sold for $2,098,500, comfortably in excess of the high estimate (est. $1/1.5 million). Two sculptures by Anish Kapoor were sought after tonight, with Turning the World Upside Down #4 fetching $2,434,500, in excess of the high estimate (est. $1.5/2 million), and Untitled from 2009, which also exceeded the high estimate to sell for $962,500 (est. $550/750,000).

Leading the mid-20th century section was one of the largest and most important works from Lucio Fontana’s iconic body of work ever to appear at auction: Concetto Spaziale from 1965 sold for $6,242,500 (est. $6/8 million). David Smith’s Voltri-Bolton II, a steel sculpture from 1962 was purchased by the Colby College Museum of Art for $2,994,500, nearly reaching the high estimate of $3 million. The work had been tucked away in a private collection since 1979. In addition to Round Jackie, works from the Collection of Dodie Rosekrans included three significant paintings by Jean Dubuffet from 1945-54; they were led by the Portrait de Édith Boissonnas that sold for $1,142,500, well over the high estimate (est. $600/800,000).

Works by Alexander Calder were also in demand this evening: The Tree, a large standing mobile exceeded the high estimate to sell $3,386,500 (est. $2/3 million) while Constellation with Bottles from 1943 fetched $3,106,500 (est. $3/4 million).

* Pre-sale estimates do not include buyer’s premium

Reader Notes:

[1]  Although I believe that Andy Warhol would be very pleased with the renown and increased respect his work has achieved since his passing, I also think that the high auction prices would have been a double-edged sword and something of an irritant for him, as they would be for any artist precluded from sharing directly in this future revenue stream.  Obviously, high auction sales enhance both reputation and initial artwork selling prices, but human nature is human nature.  That being said, I think Warhol would have regarded it as an even better night if he could have been there -- or anywhere -- in person.  He died tragically and much too young.

[2]  I reproduced the Jeff Koons' reference in mice-type in order to simulate the size of his talent and achievement.  Like the New York Times' art critic Michael Kimmelman, among others, I believe that Koons represents "one last, pathetic gasp of the sort of self-promoting hype and sensationalism that characterized the worst of the 1980s" and that Koons's work is  "artificial," "cheap" and "unabashedly cynical.".  They say that you shouldn't say anything if you can't say anything nice, but Koons has always burned me up and consideration of his Pink Panther as anything other than worthless junk annoys me.


  1. Jeff Koons, ugh. Unfortunately, I feel as though in order to indict him properly I would have to be able to comment more intelligently than I can on the meaning of the art market were are now experiencing, and specifically how it is related to celebrity phenomena across all markets. It would be so great to hear AW's take on Koons and, e.g., Justin Bieber, D. Trump, and Steve Schwartman (picking 3 examples almost at random).

  2. Silly Blogger lost my comment, which was: Koons, ugh. I wish AW were around to comment further on markets and celebrities, and to compare Koons with, e.g., Trump.

  3. Blogger also ate my possibly profane response to the effect that I dislike (I won't be profane this time) Koons' work intensely. I would be remiss in not mentioning that my brother-in-law Don Prutzman was the first attorney to score big off Koons in the highly publicized "String of Puppies" case. I think Warhol probably would have been light, amusing and diffident about the Koons phenomenon, if you could call it that. Curtis