Tuesday’s sale at Christie’s was filled with surprises and confusion. The overall strength of the sale where $75m in art changed hands even though three of the biggest lots either failed to sell or were withdrawn was a big surprise. Surprising and confusing was Peter Brant’s misreading of the market. Both of his aggressively priced works–Warhol’s Tunafish Disaster and Basquiat’s Brother Sausage–failed to sell. Not a single bid came out for the Basquiat.
Also confusing was the presence of an auction house guarantee in the sale. Some newspaper reports suggested other works that had third party guarantees, had been backstopped by the auction house itself. In a third-party guarantee, someone other than the auction house assumes the risk of the sale. It’s an important distinction because it determines who benefits the most from a strong sale.
Meanwhile, the top lot of the sale–Peter Doig’s Reflection–had the artist present in the saleroom during the extended round of bidding. Like Takashi Murakami who was at Sotheby’s to witness his record price, Doig sat in the back of the room with his dealer, Gavin Brown, as bidders set a record for the artist in Sterling prices.
The Master, Judd Tully, covers who made how much in the sale:
- The six Cunningham/Cage works made $7.1 million total against a pre-sale high of $5 million.
- Segalot also acquired the stunning Untitled (14 Drawings) (1981) by Jean-Michel Basquiat (est. $500–700,000), for $1,986,500. It had sold back in the early 1980s to New York collector Larry Warsh for around $10,000, and Warsh subsequently sold it to Peter Brant.
- Sam Francis’s Japan Line, a huge 1957 canvas measuring 86 by 176 inches and consigned from the California estate of Betty Freeman (est. $1.5–2 million), sold to Jonathan Binstock of Citibank Art Advisory for $1,762,500.
- Rare-to-market works fared particularly well, with Joan Mitchell’s Ab-Ex composition Untitled (circa 1958) (est. $5–7 million), sold to a telephone bidder for $5,458,500. It last sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 1989, yes, twenty years ago, for $506,000, a tenth of this weeks’ price.
A Showdown for Doir at Christie’s (ArtInfo.com)