Adam Lindemann asks some very smart questions about Sotheby’s attention-getting sale last week. But if he doesn’t have the answers, who does? He begins with the two large abstract paintings by Gerhard Richter that made $21 million and $18 million respectively last Wednesday night:
Only a year ago a similar and perhaps better one fetched $10 million at auction, a price that seemed awfully high at the time, so how can it be that a 79-year-old artist’s work has doubled in a year of financial crisis? What makes these results even more strange is the rumor that these pictures had been on the market for a while, with no buyers anywhere near these levels. But let’s not forget the early and important black and white photorealist Richter painting that didn’t find any takers in the sale at Christie’s last Tuesday night. The photorealist paintings are the more significant and historic works from Mr. Richter’s oeuvre, and yet the historically “important” art found no buyer while the pretty, colorful abstractions sold for double their presale estimates.
Then there was the unusual case of the four rare and handsome Clyfford Stills sold by the artist’s estate to raise money for the Still museum in Denver, Colo. They all sold unbelievably well, but one of them made an outrageous $61 million that night, a number that astounded even the Sotheby’s experts; you could read it on their wide-eyed faces (see them on my website, www.adamlindemann.com). Only two or three years ago, Bob Mnuchin of L+M gallery offered me a similar large Still painting for $20-some million and I thought he was daft, but after these results, am I now supposed to believe that was a bargain?