Christie’s sales of post-war art show no sign of boom diminishing

Interest in post-war works continues to boom as Christie's offerings by Warhol, Newman and Bacon are snapped up by big-spending buyers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 8:43pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 8:44pm


Two works from Andy Warhol's Death and Disaster series sold for a combined US$100 million and a Barnett Newman painting went for an artist record of US$84.2 million in fierce New York auction bidding.

Works by Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon also fetched more than US$50 million apiece, in Tuesday's bumper Christie's sale.

"These are incredible statistics," Brett Gorvy, chairman and head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's, said after the sale. "We saw phenomenal success and phenomenal results."

Warhol's Race Riot, 1964, a provocative four-panel painting of unrest in Birmingham, Alabama, went for US$62.9 million, way above the estimate of US$45 million.

The work was a direct response to an article Warhol saw in Life magazine that ran with an image by Associated Press photographer Charles Moore.

Warhol's 1962 painting White Marilyn, completed shortly after Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe took her life, sold for US$41 million, well above its estimate of up to US$18 million.

Newman's Black Fire I, a 1961 canvas showing a thick column of black alongside smaller ribbons of white and black, surpassed his auction record set last year when Onement VI went for US$43.8 million. When the hammer fell on Black Fire I at US$84.2 million, the room gave a standing ovation.

Christie's sold 68 pieces on Tuesday, raising more than US$744 million. All prices included the buyer's premium.

Francis Bacon's Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards sold for US$80.8 million. The price surged quickly from an opening bid of US$50 million. The 1984 work came on to the market a year after Christie's sold Bacon's 1969 Three Studies of Lucian Freud for US$142.4 million at auction.

Christie's described it is one of the greatest paintings from the artist's late period.

Rothko's Untitled, a large abstract oil painting with colours ranging from a silvery mist to a deep violet, fetched US$66.2 million.

Jeff Koons' Jim Beam J.B. Turner Train, a three-metre-long stainless steel sculpture filled with bourbon, sold for US$33.8 million.

His Balloon Dog (Orange) sold last spring for US$58.4 million, setting a world auction record for a living artist.

Sotheby's was due to enter the Spring sales fray yesterday.

A 1986 group of six Warhol self-portraits is expected to bring between US$25 million to US$35 million. The silk-screen images in different colours depict Warhol in his famous "fright wig".

Among other outstanding offerings by Sotheby's is Koons' two-metre-tall stainless steel sculpture, Popeye, which was estimated to sell for US$25 million.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Reuters