Billionaire buyers wanting Warhol, Basquiat, Rothko, Koons, Newman, Calder, Bacon and other luminaries of postwar and contemporary art sent Christie's evening sale on Tuesday to $745 million (with buyer's premium), a record amount for a single sale. Records were smashed for artists from Barnet Newman to Alexander Calder, with 68 of 72 offered lots selling (98% sold by value). The sale was expected to bring $500 million.
Of note, there were 40 guaranteed lots in the sale, up from 15 a year ago, meaning the sellers were getting an undisclosed amount regardless of the auction action. Bidders competed fiercely for a number of lots, and of the top ten lots, two were bought by Gagosian Gallery and two went to Asian private buyers.
Topping the night was a Barnett Newman (1905-1970), Black Fire I, an oil on canvas from 1961, that brought $84 million.
Although Francis Bacon (1909-1992) did not exceed the world record price for art of $142.4 million that his Lucien Freud triptych made last November, his Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards, depicting his longtime companion in convuluted poses, fetched $80.8 million.
Bidders fought hard for Andy Warhol's “Race Riot, 1964” which went for $62.9 million, exceeding the presale estimate of $45 million.
His 1962 “White Marilyn” of film icon Marilyn Monroe sold for $41 million, far above the $12 million to $18 million estimate.
Mark Rothko's (1903-1970), Untitled, oil on canvas, from 1952, went for $66 million. Another high performer was Alexander Calder's (1898-1976), Poisson volant (Flying Fish), a hanging mobile, made in 1957, which brought an artist auction record of $25.9 million from a low estimate of $9 million.
Global annual sales of postwar and contemporary art increased by 11 percent in 2013, with a highest-ever auction total of $6.7 billion, according to economist Clare McAndrew in her March report for the European Fine Art Foundation.
The previous highest auction total ever achieved was Christie's November 2013 sale that brought $692 million.