| Chris Michaud |
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Christie’s held the biggest art auction in history on Wednesday, selling $853 million worth of contemporary and post-war art, led by a pair of Andy Warhol works featuring multiple images of Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando.
The impressive haul beat Christie’s high pre-sale estimate of US$836 million. It was the fourth successive time since May 2013 that the auction house’s post-war and contemporary sale broke the record for the highest-ever total of a single sale.
A bidding war drove Warhol’s “Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)” to US$81.9 million, while “Four Marlons” fetched US$69.6 million to lead the sale of 80 works in a packed saleroom where only five works failed to find buyers.
Christie’s had estimated the silkscreen-on-linen Warhols would together sell for more than US$130 million, which turned out to be conservative in the intensely competitive market.
“This is a market driven by global collectors who are looking for the best of the best,” said Brett Gorvy, international head of post-war and contemporary art.
“More than about records, it’s about five, six or seven buyers competing to spend 50 or 60 million dollars on an object.”
A new record was set for Cy Twombly, when an untitled 1970 work soared far beyond the US$35 million to US$55 million estimate to US$69.6 million, more than tripling the old record.
Records were also set for Ed Ruscha, Martin Kippenberger and Cindy Sherman at the blockbuster sale, which capped two weeks of key fall auctions for powerhouses Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
Other highlights included Francis Bacon’s “Seated Figure”, which fetched US$45 million or just above the low estimate, and Ruscha’s “Smash”, which sold for US$30.4 million, more than twice the low estimate. Estimates do not include commission of just over 12 per cent.
In all 11 works sold for more than US$20 million each and records were set for 15 artists among 42 represented.
With participation from 43 countries, bidding was especially strong from European, Asian and Mideast collectors, in addition to US buyers, Christie’s said.
Christie’s had set the record for the biggest auction total in history in May, when its contemporary sale hauled in US$745 million, but Wednesday’s record quelled any doubts whether the art market’s top-tier bubble might soon burst.