Warhol's Elvis and Brando Power Christie's To Record Art Auction

In May the auction house had a sale of contemporary art that went for $745 million, but yesterday in less than two hours, that was trumped by a sale of over $850 million. In addition to breaking records for a single contemporary art sale, records were reset for a number of artists’ works including: Ed Ruscha, Peter Doig, Georg Baselitz, Cindy Sherman and Cy Twombly.

Warhol was the big earner for Christie’s

Prior to the sale Christie’s had expected sales of around $600 million but Warhol and others, put that estimate to shame. Warhol’s 1963 silkscreen of overlapping Elvis with gun, “Triple Elvis [Ferus Type],” was sold to a European bidder (anonymous) by telephone for $82 million while his “Four Marlins” was sold for $70 million minutes later. Christie’s had expected the two to fetch $130 million but the $152 million for the two blew that up quite quickly.

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Christie’s Chief Executive Steven Murphy said the sale “proves that enjoying works of art has become a universal pursuit in our time.”

While the two Warhol’s were the “winners” of the day, the top 10 pieces in the sale averaged a sale price of $22 million.

Asia was well represented in the sale with a Willem de Kooning abstract going for $17.5 million and another abstract from Gerhard Richter garnering $17 million. Wall Street was also well-represented with Americans shelling out big bucks for works by Robert Ryman, Martin Kippenberger, Franz Kile, Sherman and others.

The sale wasn’t limited to silkscreen and painting success with Jeff Koons’s shiny sculpture “Balloon Monkey (Orange),” being sold for $26 million.

Strong sale with a single caveat

All in all, only five pieces or the 80 on auction failed to reach their sell-through rates.

If there was any downside to the auction for Christie’s was the fact that a number of pieces were sold to those who needed to only bid once including Francis Bacon’s “Seated Figure” that went for $45 million.

Art bubble booming, bursting or there is no bubble? That is for readers to decide.