There has been a lot of talk this week about the Contemporary art market reaching a top. Yet last night Christie’s held a historic sale not because fo the record-setting total of $495m but because of the range of works by numerous artists that sold at prices well above estimate ranges. This was not sale dominated by a single nine-figure work or even defined by the Andy Williams estate. It was an even that showed Christie’s central postion in the Contemporary market and the mastery with which they orchestrated a meeting of willing sellers and eager buyers. By all accounts, sophisticated veterans of the market were on both sides of many of the trades last night.
Here’s what GalleristNY’s Dan Duray heard at the press conference:
“It’s a curious thing, really,” Mr. Pylkkänen said at the press conference. “As the auctioneer I found myself wondering how many clients we could have sold pictures to for over $20 million tonight. That’s the thought that was going through my mind as they were bidding on the Licthenstein, the Basquiat. We are in a new era of the art market.”
Katya Kazakina got this bit of color:
“You have a lot of foreign money, a lot of hedge-fund money,” said Miami collector Martin Margulies after he exited the packed salesroom. “Stocks could go down 50 percent. If this goes down, it will eventually go back up. These are historical pieces.”
Kelly Crow buttonholed one market player:
Sandy Rower, a New York collector—and Alexander Calder’s grandson—said buyers feel good about the upward trajectory of art values overall now. “I see a consistent market that’s willing to buy good and great things,” Mr. Rower said, adding, “Sometimes they only want the great things.”
And numerous reporters, including Kazakina, got a version of this quote from the buyer of Lichtenstein:
“I always saw it in the textbooks,” Graff said, adding that it was one of his priciest purchases. “I’ve got a big birthday coming up and I bought it for my birthday.”
It wasn’t all billionaire collectors, though. Judd Tully caught up with the buyer of a Basquiat who is new to Contemporary art but not collecting and was willing to pay a princely sum for a work on paper:
Another Basquiat, this one a work on paper, “Furious Man,” also made a huge sum, selling toJerry Lauren for $5,723,750 (est. $1-1.5 million). It last sold at Sotheby’s New York in May 2001 for $302,750. Here, it was one of the standout pieces from the Andy Williams collection.
“I’m a folk art collector,” said Lauren, as he exited the heaving, standing-room-only salesroom, “and I can identify with this because it’s American street folk art.” Lauren, who bid from a last row seat in the salesroom, is the creative head of men’s fashion at Ralph Lauren (no relation). He explained that he collects Bill Traylor, a storied folk artist, as well as American weathervanes, stoneware, and “very rare Americana.” Needless to say, it is his first Basquiat.
Giddy Highs for Contemporary Art in Historic Sale (Christie’s)