Auction Block: Contemporary art steals the show

Montefiore's Auction in Tel Aviv managed to sell only 60% of its lots, but still brought $1.18m.

REUVEN RUBIN art 88 224 (photo credit: )
REUVEN RUBIN art 88 224
(photo credit: )
They are ecstatic at Sotheby's. Its highest sale total ever was chalked up this month when its evening sale of Contemporary Art in New York brought $315,907,000, 98.2% by value and 91.6% by lot. Francis Bacon's Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1, 1969, which at $45,961,000 sold to an American dealer, was the top lot of a two-week series of sales in New York and his Self Portrait, from the same year, brought $33,081,000 from an anonymous buyer. A new record for a living artist at auction was set when Jeff Koons' pop sculpture Hanging Heart brought $23.6 million. Thirteen artist records were set that evening, including for Koons, Ellsworth Kelly, John Chamberlain, Fang Lijun, Zhang Xiaogang (now on view at the Israel Museum's Chinese show), Anish Kapoor, Ad Reinhardt, Yei Pei Ming, Richard Serra, Josef Albers, Sol LeWitt, Walter de Maria and Matthew Barney. Six lots sold for over $10 million; 16 for over $5 million; and 55 for over $1 million. Even Sotheby's day sale broke the $100 million mark with an extraordinary $102.4 million This brought the two-day total of Contemporary Art at Sotheby's to $418,317,000. CHRISTIE'S SALES of post-war and contemporary art did even better and were offered over three consecutive days. The combined total was a massive: $464,490,950. The Stone Collection totaled $46,412,300, and was 94% sold by value and set 12 new world auction records for post-war and contemporary artists, including John Chamberlain and Wayne Thiebaud. The Evening Sale realized $325,006,000, the highest total of the season for Post-War and Contemporary and the second highest result for a sale in this category at Christie's. It was 94% sold by value and buyers were 51% American, 26% European, and 23% others. Sixteen world auction records were set, 95% of the lots were sold within or above their pre-sale estimate and 51 lots sold above the one million mark. Mark Rothko's Untitled (Red Blue Orange) was the highest selling lot of the sale at $34.2 million. Christie's concluded its Autumn Sales of Impressionist & Modern and Post-War & Contemporary Art in New York with a grand total of $937,463,050, the most monumental figure ever in art auction history. Part of the current season's success may be optical: the dollar has seriously declined. But there is little doubt that more and more people are making large sums of money, and are willing to splurge on the biggest names in 20th and 21st century art. MONTEFIORE'S AUCTION in Tel Aviv last week managed to sell only 60% of its lots, but still brought $1.18m. Top lot was Reuven Rubin's kitchy Peace Offering, an oil from 1955 that went for $161,000. The only other lot to top $100,000 was Jean-Pierre Cassigneul's undated oil, Woman with a Large Hat, which made $111,550. All prices include commissions paid.