Record Prices Abound at Sotheby's $392 Million Contemporary Art Sale

Kerry James Marshall's Past Times (1997) set a new record for a living African American artist of $21.1m with fees
Kerry James Marshall's Past Times (1997) set a new record for a living African American artist of $21.1m with fees
(Sotheby's)
  • David Hockney's Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990) set a record for the artist with a price of $28.5m

    David Hockney's Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990) set a record for the artist with a price of $28.5m

    Sotheby's

On Wednesday, Sotheby's tallied $392.3m total with fees for contemporary art in New York, setting 15 artist records among the 75 lots offered. Just two works failed to sell—by Yayoi Kusama and Lucio Fontana.

An Asian private collector won David Hockney's "Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica," a large-scale oil painting dating from 1990, for $28.5 million.

The price is more than double the previous auction record fo the artist.

Following a popular traveling retrospective on the 80-year-old artist, four of his five highest auction prices have been set in the past 18 months. The same night at Sotheby's, his six-piece "Piscine de Medianoche" (Paper Pool 30) (1978) surpassed its $7m high estimate to fetch $11.7m with fees.

The evening was boosted by fresh-to-market works from the Morton and Barbara Mandel collection, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and a group of works including donations by five leading black artists to benefit the Studio Museum in Harlem.

A monumental painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $30.7m, more than 2,000 times its purchase price 35 years ago. His 12-foot-by-12-foot "Flesh and Spirit" was sold by the estate of Dolores Ormandy Neumann, who bought it in 1983 for $15,000.

The Basquiat, which was subject to a recent legal case, garnered just one bid, but other works by African American artists soared. Notably, "Past Times," a 13-foot work by Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall, brought $21.1m, a record for a living black artist at auction; the artist’s previous record of $5m was established six months ago.

Barkley Hendricks’s portrait of a woman, "Brenda P," sold for $2.18m, a record for the late artist at auction.

Among the works sold to benefit the Studio Museum in Harlem, Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s "Bush Babies" sold for $3.38m, an auction record for the artist.

The top lot of the night was Jackson Pollock's drip painting "Number 32, 1949," which brought $34.1m with fees—just meeting its estimate.

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