Record-breaking Basquiat leads Post-War Evening Sale

$318,388,000 Evening Sale pushes running total for the 20th Century season at Christie’s close to the $400 million mark

A record-breaking work by Jean-Michel Basquiat led last night’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, which realized a total of $318,388,000 / £220,796,117 / €279,086,291, with sell-through rates of 87 per cent by lot and 91 per cent by value. The sale established six artist world records, and brought the total for Christie’s 20th Century series of sales to $396.5 million.

Executed at the height of the artist’s career, Untitled (1982) established a new world auction record of $57,285,000 for Jean-Michel Basquiat (all prices include buyer’s premium). A world auction record was also established for Agnes Martin, whose 1965 canvas Orange Grove sold for $10,693,000 — exceeding its high estimate of $8,500,000.

Richard Prince (b. 1949), Runaway Nurse, 2007. Inkjet and acrylic on canvas. 110¼ x 66 in. (280 x 167.6 cm.) Sold for: $9,685,000 on 10 May 2016

Other leaders on a night of record prices included Richard Prince’s Runaway Nurse (2007), which sold for $9,685,000, establishing a new world auction record for the artist. Auction records were also set for Mike Kelley, whose Memory Ware Flat 1 (2000) sold for $3,301,000, and Kerry James Marshall, whose work Plunge (1992) was sold for $2,165,000. Presented for the first time at auction, a new world auction record was also set for artist Barry X Ball, whose sculpture Sleeping Hermaphrodite (2008-10) found a buyer at $545,000.

Additional highlights of the evening included Mark Rothko’s No.17, one of the artist’s rare ‘blue’ canvases, sold for $32,645,000, along with Clyfford Still’s PH-234 (1948), an iconic example of the artist at the height of his career, and one of the rare instances in which one of his works has come to market — sold for $28,165,000.

Among the ten highest-selling works were Christopher Wool’s And If You (1992), sold for $13,605,000, Cy Twombly’s Untitled (1970), which realized $9,125,000, and Roy Lichtenstein’s Sailboats (1973), which sold for $8,677,000.

Brett Gorvy, Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, commented: ‘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.’

Sara Friedlander, Vice-President and Head of Evening Sale, Post-War and Contemporary Art, added: ‘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 per cent of the lots had never been sold at auction, and of the 10 works that had been sold, only four 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.’

20th Century at Christie’s continues today with Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning and Afternoon sales, to be followed by our Impressionist & Modern sale series.


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