Christie's continued on its winning streak Tuesday night with a $331.8 million sale of post-war and contemporary art, just a day after it sold a Modigliani nude portrait for a record-shattering $170.4 million. While not every lot in the sale was a winner (some fell below guarantees/estimates and 13 went unsold), a notable half dozen brought artist auction records or went multiples above estimates.
As predicted in pre-sale reports, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) earned an artist auction record price at $28 million for one of her giant spider sculptures, ranking her sculpture as the most expensive at auction by a female artist.
The iconic bronze arachnid crushed the artist's previous record of $10.7 million, set at Christie's in 2011 for another edition.
Louise Bourgeois explained the work: “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother."
It was a good night for Lucio Fontana, too, whose Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio, or "Spatial Concept, The End of God,” an oil on shaped canvas painted in 1964, brought an artist auction record of $29 million. The pierced yellow ovoid "egg" shaped work was described by Christie's as among few works "at the apex of Abstract Spatialism" in the postwar period.
The sale's top lot was Andy Warhol's Four Marilyns from 1964 which fetched $36 million. Kelly Crow reported in the WSJ that Christie's gave the seller a $40 million guarantee on this work, causing speculation over whether the auction house will need to pony up the difference. The artist's Little Electric Chair, from the same year, brought $11 million, above its $9 million estimate.
Another high performing lot was Alexander Calder's 1948 hanging mobile Vertical out of Horizontal. It soared to $9.5 million, more than three times its high estimate, and Crow reported that it went to a Chinese buyer, as did the Fontana. The work came from the estate of Arthur and Anita Kahn which brought a total $47 million.
Of the 66 lots offered, 53 were sold (80% sold by lot, 86% sold by value).