$1 Billion Sold This Week

NEW YORK CITY -- A purchase price of $5.8 million with fees for Joan Mitchell’s 1969-70 Abstract Expressionist painting “Afternoon” on Wednesday pushed the total art sales by Christie’s this week past $1 billion, the first time a single auction house had reached that benchmark in such a short span.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network see this a sign of the huge amount of cash being spent on art as an investment and status symbol.

A work filled with passages of blue, white and yellow impasto, it had not appeared on the auction market since 1992. The Mitchell was one of 82 lots of postwar and contemporary art that were estimated to raise at least $495 million.

In other notable sales of the night, Mark Rothko’s “No. 10” went for $81.9 million, Andy Warhol’s “Colored Mona Lisa” sold for $56.2 million and Lucien Freud’s “Benefits Supervisor Resting” also went for $56.2 million.

Two days earlier Christie’s sold $705.9 million (including fees) worth of works spanning the 20th century — including Picasso’s 1955 “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)” — for an all-time auction high of $179.4 million.

A 32-lot daytime auction on Wednesday at Christie’s raised $45.6 million. On Tuesday an auction by Christie’s rival, Sotheby’s, raised $379.7 million with fees from 63 lots offered of American-oriented contemporary pieces.

About 1,100 works in all have been put on view this week at the Manhattan headquarters of Christie’s, attracting more than 15,000 visitors to the building.

The previous high for a weekly series of art sales was the $975 million Christie’s achieved for its contemporary auctions last May, according to the company.