Kelly Crow quotes Denver’s elated sellers of the Clyfford Still works that fetched $114m and made the third-party guarantor a lot of money:
After the sale, Christopher Hunt, president of the Denver Museum’s board, hailed the prices paid for Still’s art, adding that the sale “confirms Clyfford Still’s rightful place as a leader” in 20th century art.
That’s the wrong conclusion to draw from such a successful sale. Still deserves a “rightful place” at the top of the list of 20th Century painters. But that position was not achieved by this sale or conferred by the art market. Indeed, the opposite dynamic is at work here. The bulk of Still’s output is in the museum, some 2000 works, which leaves the market with little to transact. Selecting works from that trove for a historic sale, meant any potential buyer had to throw pricing questions to the wind.
The success of Gerhard Richter’s work can be attributed to the reception of the Tate show in London but also the sheer volume of abstract works on the market which have been building steady momentum for several years now.
The Master, Judd Tully, takes a stab at explaining the market for Richter abstract paintings. The group made $74m for Sotheby’s, a much stronger showing than Christie’s could accomplish with one of the artist’s earlier figurative works. Richter’s stock may be rising but right now the intense market interest is focused in the abstract paintings. At Sotheby’s, one buyer spent more than $30m buying three works from the collection of abstracts assembled by the consignor:
The painter’s jump in market power is rather breathtaking. “Gudrun,” for example, last sold at Sotheby’s London in June 2001 to the current seller for £553,500 ($783,106). Gudrun was underbid by Chicago dealer Paul Gray, who complemented Sotheby’s on its promotion of the Richter trove. “They did a really good job marketing those pictures,” said the dealer. “I did a little research on the Richter market and 150 Richters have sold for more than one million dollars in the past ten years. That’s a big market!”
Katya Kazakina gets the final word from some accomplished collectors who felt a little left out of the night’s excitement:
“I wish I had some Richters,” said Miami-based contemporary art collector Mera Rubell.
Still Painting Fetches $61.7 Million as Protesters Cry ‘Shame’ (Bloomberg)
Sotheby’s Sells Group of Clyfford Still Paintings for $114 Million (Wall Street Journal)
Irascibility Pays Off as Clyfford Still Leads Sotheby’s to a White-Hot $316 Million Postwar Art Sale (Artinfo)