Agam raises Sotheby’s bar for Israeli artists

Painting by Israeli artist sold at auction to European private collector at Sotheby’s for $698,000, setting a new record.

Agam painting_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Agam painting_311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
NEW YORK – “Growth,” a painting by Israeli artist Yaacov Agam, sold at auction to a European private collector at Sotheby’s last Wednesday for $698,000, including commission, setting a new record for any living or dead Israeli artist.
The sale, part of an auction of Israeli and international artists’ work, was 179 percent higher than Sotheby’s estimates for the sale of the work. “Growth” is an oil painting on wood panels in twelve parts, supported by a metal truss.
The auction brought in $3.45 million in sales, and included works by famed Israeli artists Michal Rovner, Reuven Rubin and Yosl Bergner.
Jennifer Roth, senior vice president and head of Sotheby’s Fine Arts department in New York, noted that Agam was present in the room at the auction, and was acknowledged with enthusiastic applause after the lot sold.
“One’s always surprised when something goes that much over, but I would say that we were pleased and we were aware in the days leading up to the sale that there was a lot of interest,” Roth told The Jerusalem Post regarding the Agam. “You can say we were surprised, but we obviously recognized the importance of the work.”
Roth noted that in 2009, Sotheby’s had sold an earlier Agam from the 1950s for $350,000.
This time around, Roth said as to the estimate for the “Growth” painting, “We were being conservative, but for a work of that size, I think it was not an unusual price.
The sale occurred at the same time as the New York annual sale of important Judaica, in which an all-time auction record was broken for the purchase of a single tractate of the Talmud.
The important Judaica sale brought in over $3.03m. The two top sales were a German silver hanukkia from 1713, which sold for $482,500, and a Venetian Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berakhot, from 1520, which sold for $338,500.
Sotheby’s specialists said the tractate of the Babylonian Talmud brought in more than double its high estimate.
“It’s the scarcest volume, first edition – 1520 – of the printing of the Talmud, and it had never before been offered at an auction,” Roth said.