Several intruiging works, not neccessarily the top billed lots, soared above estimates at Sotheby's Nov. 9 evening sale. Contemporary Art brought in a sizable $222.4 million total for a small auction of 55 lots. Five lots went unsold.
One surprise performer was a sculpture that questioned the American dream. Another was a vibrant and sumptuously painted abstraction. An arachnid by a notable sculptress took in five times its low estimate.
Cady Noland's American flag-draped stock, based on the Colonial-era contraption which secured people by wrists and ankles for public scorn, certainly found its audience. "Gibbet" took in an artist auction record price of $1,762,500 (prices quoted with fees) against a $600,000—800,000 pre-sale estimate.
Abstract expressionist Willem de Koonig's Montauk III garnered a strong $9,938,500 (estimate: $5,000,000—7,000,000). Slated for the upcoming Museum of Modern Art exhibition De Kooning: a Retrospective, the work is one of his five known paintings dating from 1969, all titled Montauk, and brilliantly captures the sun-drenched feeling of the artist's Long Island summer retreat.
A mega-sized bronze spider sculpture from the series of six by Louise Bourgeois, who died in May of 2010, found a buyer at $3,554,500, soundly exceeding its estimate of $600,000—800,000.
A night after his "Men in Her Life" fetched an astonishing $63 million at Phillips de Pury, Andy Warhol again delivered big numbers with his Large Coca-Cola canvas which went up to $35,362,500, more than $10 million above the high estimate, making it the night's top lot.
Gerhard Richter's giant blurry and gray photo-portrait titled Matrosen (Sailors) more than doubled its low estimate to reach $13,242,500.
Another star lot, going two times above the low estimate, was Francis Bacon's large painting Figure in Movement, selling for $14,082,500. Larry Rivers' French Money III made $1,142,500 from a $300,000 low estimate and Jim Hodges' silky installation When We Stay wrapped up over $2 million, four times the low estimate.
Among the more mellow performers was a sunny yellow Mark Rothko canvas of 1955 which fetched $22,482,500, just above its low estimate and not near the $30 million high estimate that some expected the work to reach.
Also falling neatly within estimates were Warhol's Flowers ($2.6 million) and Diamond Dust Shoes ($1.4 million), Roy Lichtenstein's Ice Cream Soda ($14 million) and Still Life with Lobster ($5.9 million), and Hans Hoffman's Twilight in the Swamp ($1.6 million).