Halloween is past, so candy is supposed to be on sale, right? Not at last night’s Philips de Pury sale when a lucky bidder ended up paying $4.5 million for 200 pounds of blue cellophane-wrapped treats. The candy pile by Felix Gonzalez-Torres was only one of a number of high-selling works at the auction house’s Carte Blanche and Contemporary Art Part I auctions.
With the onrush of the auction season this November came a not entirely-expected string of good news: the art market is coming back, at least in the high end of blue chip artists and modernist work. Auctions broke records for individual artists’ prices as Christie’s November 3rd Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale swept through $231,439,500 and Sotheby’s November 2nd Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale cleared $227,561,000. The strong performances from auction houses are in part a result of the recession turnaround but the quality of works on offer is also a factor — this is some high quality schwag.
Other surprises at Philips de Pury include a cool $506,500 for a pair of Felix Gonzalez-Torres lightbulbs (note to collectors: available at Home Depot for $10) and a Warhol “Men in Her Life” screenprint featuring Elizabeth Taylor that exceeded its $50 million estimate at $63.3 million, the second most expensive Warhol ever sold at auction.
In an interesting twist, the Carte Blanche auction was “curated” and organized by an outsider to Philips de Pury, former Christie’s director-cum-gallerist Philippe Ségalot. The choice of curator makes for a sexier auction to be sure, and Ségalot employed his art world pedigree well in convincing artists and collectors to let go of some prized lots. Could this auteur auction mark a new trend for art sales?
For more New York auction insight and discussion, visit Lindsay Pollock’s Art Market Views.
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