Basquiat Fetches Record $57.3 Million

NEW YORK, NY.- The Tuesday night Christie's evening sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art realized US$318,388,000 with sell-through rates of 87% by lot and 91% by value.

The Basquiat work, shown here, consigned by collector Adam Lindmann fetched a record $57.3 million. He paid $4.5 million for the work at a 2004 auction.

The sale established 6 new world auction records for artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Agnes Martin, Mike Kelley, Richard Prince, Kerry James Marshall and Barry X Ball.

The results of last night's sale brings the week’s running total to $396.5million, which includes the price achieved by the May 8 evening auction of Bound to Fail.

The sale attracted registered bidders from 39 countries, with strong bidding from Asia, Europe and the United States.

Sara Friedlander, Vice President, Head of Evening Sale, Post-War and Contemporary Art, stated:

“We built our sales this season to reflect the macro environment, providing an ideal balance that suits an array of collecting tastes. Tonight’s success is the result of a tightly edited sale with top quality works, which were extremely fresh to the marketplace. 84% of the lots had never been sold at auction, and of the 10 works that had been sold, only 4 had been offered over the past 10 years. We are very pleased to see collectors gravitate to a broad spectrum of art, spanning from masterpiece quality works, including Rothko’s No. 17, to artists who are quickly rising within the auction market. One such example is Kerry James Marshall, whose Plunge, captivated the imagination of so many collectors and set a world auction record for the artist.”

Brett Gorvy, Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, remarked:

“We are very proud of the record price achieved for Basquiat’s monumental portrait of the artist as devil at a time when top collectors are pursuing works of the very highest quality. This painting drew intense competition that dispelled questions of a market contraction. We are particularly happy that the work was acquired by a collector in Asia, demonstrating the global scope of the masterpiece market.”

Rothko Trophy Work

Another trophy work, and the second-highest lot of the night, was Mark Rothko's 1957 color field painting, No. 17.

The rare blue-toned work was estimated at $30–40 million. Though the painting had changed hands several times, including in a Sotheby's private sale, this marked its first appearance at auction.

Though the final price was robust, it was lost on virtually no one paying close attention that bidding was restrained; auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen seemed unwilling to accept that activity, which he opened at $24 million and talked up to $29 million, refused to budge, save for the exception of a single bid from postwar and contemporary art deputy chairman Barrett White.

Long past the point when it was clear there was no momentum—and no further bids—Pylkkanen kept turning to various specialists, addressing them by name, and inquiring whether there was interest. He finally hammered down the work to White's anonymous bidder. With premium, the final price was $32.6 million.

Another artist with a strong following is Clyfford Still, whose strict rules about the use and display of his artwork during his lifetime and beyond has made for a tightly controlled sale and exhibition history. For these reasons, the artist's paintings are a rare sight at auction. PH-234 (1948) carried an estimate of $25 to $35 million.

Given this fact, bidding seemed surprisingly thin. After a few bids, it was hammered down to Christie's Laura Paulson on behalf of a phone bidder. With premium, the final price was $28.2 million.

It was encouraging to see artists Agnes Martin and Joan Mitchell in the ten highest lots of the sale. A new auction record was set for Martin when Orange Grove (1965), sold for a record $10.7 million, well surpassing the previous auction high of $6.5 million set for The Beach (1964), at Sotheby's in 2013.

Bidding was also healthy for Mitchell's Noon, (1969), which garnered a final price of $9.8 million on an estimate of $5 to $7 million. While it was shy of Christie's 2014 record of $11.9 million, set for an untitled 1960 canvas, it is nonetheless an encouraging vote of market confidence in Mitchell's work.

Photo Above : Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), Untitled (detail), acrylic on canvas, Painted in 1982. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2016.