Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening auction totals £240.9 million
Christie’s recent Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening auction on 8th May in New York established the highest ever total for the category in auction history at £240.9 million ($388.5 million / €299.1 million) and the highest price for any single Post-War work of art, achieved by Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow at £53.9 Million ($86.9 Million / €66.9 Million). Record after record fell throughout the night, as international collectors bid for works by top artists across the pantheon of Post-War and Contemporary Art. These included Yves Klein, Alexander Calder (setting three auction world-records in an evening), and Gerhard Richter (who has achieved three new world-records over the course of a year). The previous season in New York, Roy Lichtenstein and Andreas Gursky also achieved world records, Gursky making the highest price for any photograph in history. Each pioneering in their fields of practice: painting, sculpture and photography, these artists have received ever-growing appreciation and art historical primacy. In June 2012 in London, Christie’s will once again present important milestones from these outstanding artists.
Francis Outred, Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe: “May 8th was an historic night for post-War and contemporary art and for more reasons than simply the unprecedented auction result in our field or Rothko’s record for a single work of post-War art. The Christie’s New York sale really marked the graduation of important artists such as Alexander Calder to the heights and level of market appreciation befitting this pioneering figure, who so radically transformed the concept of sculpture in the twentieth century. Gerhard Richter, a giant of post-War painting, saw his auction record exceeded for the third time in a year, receiving the deserved recognition for his outstanding inspiration and contribution to the medium and to generations of subsequent artists. It is against this backdrop that Christie’s is once again to offer seminal works by Calder, Richter, Yves Klein, Andreas Gursky and Roy Lichtenstein amongst many others. We are celebrating these great artistic visionaries and their legacies with outstanding examples from their oeuvres”
Stretching almost half a dozen metres across, Rouge triomphant (Estimate: £6,000,000-8,000,000) is the largest Alexander Calder’s hanging ‘mobiles’ ever to appear at auction. With its black panels hovering and gently shifting, Rouge triomphant captivates with its lone flash of crimson. Inviting the viewer to celebrate the power of red, this mobile is an emphatic object lesson in Calder’s ability to fuse beauty, movement, colour and play in a single work. This sculpture, which the artist himself installed in his 1962 retrospective at the Tate, London, is historic, and was clearly a source of some fascination for the artist himself, who expanded it twice, adding new, large mobile elements; it was acquired by the Mobil Corporation shortly after the artist’s death in 1976.
Executed in 1989, Gerhard Richter’s Struktur 2 (estimate: £9,000,000-12,000,000) is a mesmeric and monumental abstraktes bild. Realised in the same year as the totemic fall of the Berlin Wall the painting translates this powerful climate of change into its dynamic composition. Created shortly after the artist’s 18th October 1977 cycle of photorealist paintings, Struktur 2 projects a breathtaking drama and can be understood as a coda to this landmark suite, now housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In May this year, another major abstract work by the artist set a world record price at auction, selling for $21.8 million at Christies, New York.
In June, two masterpieces from Andreas Gursky’s spectacular canon of photography will feature: Rhein (1996) (Estimate: £700,000-1,000,000) and Mayday IV (2000) (Estimate: £1,200,000-1,800,000) – united for the first time at auction. Both iconic and emblematic of the artist’s pioneering, large-format and vibrantly chromatic method, these works have contributed to the radical, contemporary transformation of the medium and its international appreciation as an art form. Achieving the highest price for any work of photography in history, Gursky’s Rhein II (1999) sold at Christie’s New York in November 2011 for $4,338,500 against a pre-sale low estimate of $2,500,000.
In Reflections on Jessica Helms (1990) (Estimate: £3,500,000-4,500,000), Roy Lichtenstein returns to the genre that established him as one of the most progressive artists of his generation. The seductive nature of the woman’s curvaceous body positioned against the formal regularity of the tiled bathroom is a resounding example of his signature painting; a style which mimicked the aesthetic of the mass-market comic books of his youth, whilst at the same time providing a rigorous investigation into the nature of representation. In November 2012, Christie’s sold Lichtenstein’s early masterpiece, I Can See the Whole Room!… and There’s Nobody in it!, for the record price of $43,202,500.
*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.