Christie’s contemporary and post-war art auction marked the end of New York’s fall art season this week and dispelled once and for all concerns about the strength of the art market in the fragile economy.
Two weeks of sales were topped by a record-smashing auction of a Roy Lichtenstein that fetched an astonishing $42.6 million.
“The art market has in fact come back with real strength,” Amy Cappellazzo, Christie’s co-head of contemporary and post-war art, told Reuters.
“There was quite a lot of pent-up demand,” she said.
The 2008 financial crisis rocked the art market and sellers were in short supply for a few seasons, she noted.
If there were any major disappointments, Warhol’s “Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable)” was probably the biggest.
It fetched only $23.9 million, — less than half the high estimate.
But interest may have been softened because a number of prominent Warhol’s were on sale. A multi-image work featuring Elizabeth Taylor sold for a surprising $63.4 million at Phillips de Pury.
Jeff Koons’ “Balloon Flower (Blue),” was another surprise, selling for a record $16.9 million. Works by Alexander Calder, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Mark Tansey also set records.
The auction was the season’s biggest for Christie’s and rival Sotheby’s, grossing $272.9 million including commissions, beating the low estimate for the sale, according to the auction houses. U.S. buyers dominated.
Not only did the sales bring record prices, but a remarkable number of lots sold. Despite the unusually large sale, 93 percent of the 75 lots on offer found buyers. Estates were dominant.
Four works sold for more than $12 million, and 11 artists set new records, according to Reuters.
“But buyers felt very confident,” Cappellazzo said. “Art has held up extremely well as an asset class against other assets.”
American buyers in particular, she said, had “returned with great exuberance this season.”
Las Vegas casino and hotel magnate Steve Wynn’s Lichtenstein, entitled “Ohhh…Alright,” was the undisputed star of the show.
Its $42.6 million sale price was more than twice the value of the previous Lichtenstein record of $16.25 million.
Painted in 1964 using his signature Ben-Day dots, Lichtenstein’s image of a blue-eyed, flame haired beauty illustrates the brash comic styling of the artist’s most celebrated period of artistic production, according to Christie’s.