Souren Melikian charts the history of a couple of works from London’s Contemporary sales:
“Troisdorf,” a landscape painted by Gerhard Richter in 1985, sold for £2.11 million. Roughly equivalent to $3 million, this is hardly peanuts even if it is, in buying power terms, about 30 percent below the huge $3,199,500 that the consignor had paid for it in New York on Nov. 11, 2002, at an auction held at Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg. [ . . . ]
Mark Rothko’s “Green, Blue, Green on Blue,” painted in 1968, is smaller in format than his more imposing works and the color bands do not compose one of those compelling harmonies of which Rothko had the secret, nor do they daintily melt in a haze at the edges. No one appeared to be interested in this poor man’s Rothko, optimistically estimated at £2.5 million to £3.5 million.
When first seen at Christie’s London in December 1975, in the middle of a market crisis, “Green, Blue, Green on Blue” had cost £18,700. In June 1981, it brought £28,600. In December 1996, by the time the market was pulling out of another crisis that had broken out in the fall of 1990, it rose to a price then deemed generous – £232,500. In November 2007 in New York, the picture shot up to a mind-boggling $6,089,000. At that time, it came up as part of an estate, which is always a commercial plus, and this was a period of reckless buying regardless of quality, when money seemed to be burning the hands of those who held it. These days people required to pay millions do their homework more carefully.
Low Estimates High Profiles Buoy the Contemporary Art Market (International Herald Tribune)