Online view of tonight’s Christie’s auction, immediately after Christopher Burge hammered down the top lot, Roy Lichtenstein’s 1961 “I Can See the Whole Room!…and There’s Nobody in it!”
After last week’s debacle, Christie’s regained its footing at tonight’s Contemporary sale with a hammer total of $216.31 million, slightly below the presale estimate of $226.45-312.34 million. The total with buyer’s premium was $247.6 million. (Estimates refer to hammer total, not the hammer plus premium.) The sale was a solid 90% sold by lot, 87% sold by dollar.
The top lot, as expected, was the Lichtenstein above, hammered down at $38.5 million against a $35-45 million presale estimate. At $43.2 million with the buyer’s premium, it set a new auction record for the artist. The seller (reportedly Courtney Ross, widow of former Time Warner CEO Steve Ross) made a tidy profit, having bought it at Christie’s (at the celebrated November 1988 Tremaine Collection sale) for a mere $2.09 million.
Another major auction record was $10.72 million for a Louise Bourgeois “Spider” estimated at $4-6 million.
Some 12 lots in tonight’s sale, including the Lichtenstein, bore guarantees that were financed by
third parties. (A guarantee is the amount a consignor is promised,
whether or not bidding reaches that level.) Bidding for eight of
those 12 guaranteed lots were lackluster—knocked down at the low
estimate or less.
The sale got off to a sizzling start with 26 works consigned by ahead-of-the-curve collector Peter Norton (whose eponymous antivirus scan I’m running as I write this, because my computer has become excruciatingly slow). All Norton’s works sold, often wildly above their presale estimates, with nine artists achieving new auction records. The Norton hammer-price total was $22.85 million, trouncing the $11.15-15.94 million estimate.
Norton’s most viral lot was Paul McCarthy‘s “Tomato Head (Green), 1994, with a hammer price of $4 million against a mere $1-1.5 million estimate. Its $4.56-million final price, including buyer’s premium, set an auction record for the artist.
Paul McCarthy, “Tomato Head (Green), 1994,
The 91-lot sale had several expensive failures. A 1981 Francis Bacon was left stranded at $9.5 million, against an estimate of $12-18 million. A 1971 de Kooning failed to sell at $7 million (estimate: $8-12 million).