Historic Night at Christie’s as 12 Post-War Artists Set Records, Biggest Sale in History

by Hrag Vartanian on May 15, 2013

The happy auctioneer dance (as imaginatively gif'd by the author).

The happy auctioneer dance (as imaginatively gif’d by the author based on the Christie’s livestream of auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen).

Tonight, auction world records have been set for 12 artists at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary evening sale in New York. The auction brought in $495 million, making it the highest total in auction history, according to the auction house.

So, if you were wondering where a lot of the money is …


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Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Dustheads” (1982) raked in $48,843,750, even though the estimate was $25–35m. You may be interested to know that this work was in the recent Gagosian show in Chelsea.

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Luc Tuymans’ “Rumour” (2001) scored $2,699,750 (est. $1.4–1.8m).

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Jackson Pollock’s “Number 19, 1948” (1948) hit $58,363,750 after an estimate of $25–35m.

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Joseph Cornell’s “Magic Soap Bubble Set” (1940) realized $4,827,750 (est. $500–700k).

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Hans Hofmann’s “Beatae Memoriae” (1964) realized $4,827,750 (est. $2–3m).

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Philip Guston’s “To Fellini” (1958) realized $25,883,750 (est. $8–12m).

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Kenneth Noland’s “Circle” (1958) snagged $2,139,750 (est. $900k–1.2m).

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Roy Lichtenstein’s “Woman with Flowered Hat” (1963) realized $56,123,750 (strangely there was no public estimate).

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Julie Mehretu’s “Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation” (2001) shot past its estimate ($1.4–1.8m) to bring in $4,603,750.

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Richard Serra’s “L.A. Cone” (1986) hammered in at $4,267,750 (est. $1.5-2m).

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Ruth Asawa’s “Untitled” (late 1960s) realized $1,443,750 (est. $250–350k).

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Piero Manzoni’s “Achrome” (1958) brought in $14,123,750 (est. $6–9m).


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  • Shawn Chapman

    All in all, money well spent. It must be an interesting position to be in having all that cash. What to buy? What to buy? Greek island, or painting?

  • I suppose this means the US has turned the corner if the wealthy are spending this much on art. Clearly there isn’t a reason to hoard cash anymore, and Christies estimates were off on blue chip work by 300% on average.

    Go-Go years/Disco days are back baaaaby!

  • Dada

    Every time I read these numbers, I have an urge to take a shower and rinse myself of the disgust.

  • J L

    i recently purchased an expensive, to me, piece of art (not in the millions or anything) and now when i look at it, rather than see a work of art, i see something representative of money. i don’t see a picture or a painting; i see $45000. “This is forty five thousand dollars,” I say to myself. i finally get it, these auctions. it’s how people with money can actually ‘look at’ their money.

  • thom thom

    This is gross.

  • Joseph Hale

    J L has the confession all there. This is really just an investment strategy for those who already have plenty of wealth. Tulip bulb trading has done similar things. This has nothing to do with the larger economy “turning a corner” not for the middle class. Can’t anyone feel the circus maximus?

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