Records tumble as post-war art auction makes £260 million

Andy Warhol's Statue of Liberty fetched �27.6m. Picture: SWNS
Andy Warhol's Statue of Liberty fetched �27.6m. Picture: SWNS
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Christie’s has staged the most successful sale of postwar and contemporary art in history, taking in $412 million (£260m) as new records were set for Jeff Koons and Jean-Michel ­Basquiat, and with an Andy Warhol piece soaring to £27.6m.

It was a second night of blockbuster contemporary art results after rival Sotheby’s staged the most successful auction in its history, giving a much-needed shot of adrenaline to an art ­market that had been jittery since both houses held tepid sales of Impressionist and ­modern art last week.

Seven lots each sold for more than £12.6m, several private collections saw every work offered finding a buyer, and only six of the 73 works went unsold.

Christie’s staff were thrilled at a total of $412,253,100 (£259.8m) including commission, just ­beating its high estimate, with 
11 artists’ records set.

“This truly was an extraordinary sale,” said Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East and Russia.

“Clearly there’s an enormous amount of energy in the post-war and contemporary market,” he said, adding, “It’s highly likely that we’ll see a continuation of records being broken”.

While even the most successful auction has a few remarkable prices, one after another, works by Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko and Franz Kline soared far beyond even the high estimates. Kline’s auction record of £5.8m was smashed with a new figure of £25.4m.

Warhol’s Statue of Liberty, a 3D silkscreen featuring multiple images of the iconic monument, fetched just over £27.6m, easily beating the pre-sale estimate of £22.1m. Kline’s untitled abstract expressionist oil from 1957 soared far beyond the £12.6m to £18.9m estimate, as did Koons’ vivid, large-scale sculpture 
Tulips, from Christie’s Rockefeller Centre entry plaza and with the same estimate.

It sold for £21.3m, easily beating Koons record of £16.3m, and made the second-highest price achieved at auction by a living artist.

Basquiat’s untitled work from 1981 sold for £16.7m, beating the old record of £12.7m set in June.

Seminal works of pop art exceeded expectations, including Lichtenstein’s Nude with Red Shirt, which carried an estimate of about £9.4m but sold for nearly twice that at £17.7m, and Warhol’s Marlon Brando ­silkscreen at £14.9m, beating the high estimate.

Rothko’s abstract Red Stripe (Orange, Gold and Black) did just as well at £14.7m on a £12.6m high estimate.

“It’s amazing that contemporary art has become blue-chip value,” said Koji Inoue, Christie’s vice-president and specialist in charge of the sale. “I think we’re just seeing the beginning.”