Last night’s sale at Sotheby’s was an efficient, no-fireworks distribution mechanism. Even with the top lots exhibiting little frenzy — and Sotheby’s team sounding a touch defensive in their press conference — the Contemporary department showed how to make the most of a highly functioning market.
As the Master, Judd Tully, points out in his ArtInfo.com story. Sotheby’s average price for the Evening Sale last night was “$4,539,887 — the highest per lot price in the category since May 2008, when Sotheby’s achieved a $4.9 million average and a jumbo tally of $362 million.”
Higher average prices at lower sales volumes is actually a good thing. The success of other artists beyond Warhol and Bacon is also a sign of market strength. Herewith, a round-up the buyers and sellers rooted out by the press. (With the reporter’s name in parenthesis.)
- a 1990 Richard Prince joke painting, “White Woman” (est. $2.5-3.5 million), sold to New York art advisor Mark Fletcher for $3.2 million. (Tully)
- San Francisco dealer Anthony Meier snagged one of the evening’s most sought-after lots: Louise Bourgeois’ spindly “Spider III,” a 33-inch tall bronze that went for $3.6 million — demolishing an $800,000 estimate. (Pollock)
- A beautifully rendered 24-by-18-inch Warhol drawing from the same “Coca Cola” series, dated 1962 and estimated at $1-1.5 million, went to Gagosian for $1.5 million. London dealer Harry Blain was the underbidder for the work, which last sold at Sotheby’s London in October 2007 for $954,369. (Tully)
- “Sailors,” a 1966 gray-toned canvas, depicts a group of sailors in his signature blurry style. The painting, estimated at $6 million to $8 million, sold to Robert McClain, a Houston art adviser, for $13.2 million. (After the sale, several dealers said that Mr. McClain was putting together a collection for John D. Arnold, the hedge fund billionaire, also based in Houston.) (Vogel)
- Sotheby’s helped financier Ron Perelman sell Lichtenstein’s “Still Life with Lobster” from 1972 to a European telephone bidder for $5.9 million, over its $5 million low estimate. (Crow)
- Warhol’s Coke painting was sold last night by curator and artist Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, who acquired the piece for $143,000 at Christie’s in 1983. (Pollock)
- Warhol’s cobalt blue 1986 “Last Supper,” based on Leonardo da Vinci’s version, fetched $6.8 million, topping the $6 million estimate. The seller was Stuttgart-based collector Josef Froehlich, who acquired the work for $178,500 in 1994, dealers said.
- Lichtenstein, another Pop master, was also in demand on Tuesday. “Ice Cream Soda,” a blue-and-white cartoonlike glass topped with froth, had belonged to the New York collector Myron Orlofsky, who bought it at the Leo Castelli Gallery the year it was made. After he died, it stayed in his family, which was selling it at Sotheby’s. The painting ended up bringing $14 million from another telephone bidder, just in the middle of its $12 million to $18 million estimate. (Vogel)
Eager Collectors Snap Up Pop Art at Sotheby’s Auction (New York Times)
Pop Goes the Art Market (Wall Street Journal)