It turns out that Leonardo DiCaprio’s art auction isn’t the only thing setting new price records for art. A 1968 oil painting by German artist Gerhard Richter sold for $37 million at Sotheby’s contemporary art auction which sets a new world record for a work by a living artist.
While DiCaprio’s charity auction did set a lot of “personal bests” for the artists who donated their works for auction, they’ve been blown away by the Sotheby’s auction. With the sale of Richter’s work for the single price $37, the record $38 that Leonardo’s auction netted almost pales by comparison.
The Sotheby’s sale took in $293,587,000, which was at the low end of the pre-sale estimate of $284 million to $383 million, with 83 per cent of the 64 lots on offer finding buyers.
The sale featured some impressive financial figures with just five works selling for more than $20 million. The overall results were uneven as offerings by the usual contemporary stars like past favourites Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons underperforming or failing to meet their reserve price.
Barnett Newman’s Onement VI, a vibrant blue work from 1953 was being sold by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and it fetched the top price – $43,845,000 including commission. It set a new “personal best” record for the the late artist, beating the high estimate of $40 million.
81-year-old Richter’s Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan), being sold by the Hyatt Hotels Corp., broke the record already held by Richter for a work at auction by a living artist. It sold for $37,125,000, somewhere near the middle of the $30 million to $40 million estimate.
Tobias Meyer, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art department who also served as auctioneer, said the price was “a major accomplishment.”
The work, which Sotheby’s sold about 15 years ago for about $3.5 million, was bought by collector Don Bryant, founder of Napa’s Bryant Family Vineyard. He showed his jubilation by pumping his fist in the air as the hammer came down with his winning bid.
Don Bryant went on to say, “This just knocks me over. I just love it … I just love art.”
But not all the items for offer in the auction did well or even sold; Francis Bacon’s Study for Portrait of P.L., which carried an estimate of between $30 million and $40 million failed to attract any interest from bidders at all. A piece of Koons’ signature “readymades,” a sculpture featuring four Hoover vacuum cleaners estimated to bring between $10 million to $15 million, was taken off the block when bidding fell shy of the reserve price.
Other highlights of the auction included Yves Klein’s Sponge Sculpture Blue, SE 168, which sold for $22 million, and Clyfford Still’s “PH-21,” which took in $20.9 million, however neither piece went over their price estimates set up before the auction.
Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Unconscious” went for a cool $20.9 million. Which could be considered a bargain considering that the amount paid just squeaked past lower figure of the $20 million to $30 million estimate.
The auctions continue today with Christie’s sale of post-war and contemporary art. Whether or not Richtor’s will still stand after todays sale, remains to be seen.
By Michael Smith