Christie’s $113 million Contemporary art sale started as an easy, crash-defying walk. That’s what CEO Ed Dolman is referring to here in Carol Vogel’s story:
“In the beginning we thought we were witnessing a gravity-defying auction,” Edward Dolman, Christie’s chief executive, said after the sale. “But it was disappointing not to sell the Bacon.” He added, “There were some good prices but it’s inconsistent.”
The bad news was the Bacon and a big Richter that didn’t sell and number of works that couldn’t find buyers. The good news is:
The sale had its high points. When “Pharmacy” (1943), a Joseph Cornell box that once belonged to Marcel Duchamp’s wife, Alexina (Teeny), came up for sale, the room perked up. Four bidders wanted to take it home and it made $3.7 million (with fees), well above its high $2 million estimate. It was a record price for the artist at auction.
Another record price was set when “No. 2” a shimmering 1959 canvas of white and gold tones by Yayoi Kusama, was bought by Mr. Ségalot for $5.7 million (with fees), way above its $3.5 million high estimate.
Lindsay Pollock explains it with this quote:
“No one’s going to do silly spending in this market,” art adviser Allan Schwartzman said. “If they are flush with cash, they don’t want to look like the fool that got carried away.”
Judd Tully offers these observations:
Three artist records were set, including for a rare and beautiful Yayoi Kusama abstraction, No.2 from 1959 (est. $2.5–3.5 million). The work, which was once owned by Donald Judd, fetched a bullish $5,794,500, making it the most expensive artwork by a living woman artist.
The painting sold to New York private dealer Philippe Segalot, who outgunned stiff competition from at least three other bidders. “For something like this,” he said moments after the sale, “there’s no difference [in price] between six months ago and today. I think the market is becoming rational, which is a good thing, because there needed to be an adjustment in terms of prices.” [ . . . ]
“The estimates and expectations have to come down a little bit, like 30 percent,” said New York art adviser Sandy Heller, who underbid on Takashi Murakami‘s DOB in the Strange Forest (DOB), which went to Segalot for $3,442,500 (est.$5–7 million). “But the buyers are still there, and that’s encouraging.”