Richter painting breaks record for living artist at N.Y. auction

Wed May 15, 2013 5:10pm EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 1968 oil painting by German artist Gerhard Richter sold for some $37 million at Sotheby's contemporary art auction on Tuesday, a new record for a work by a living artist.

The sale took in $293,587,000, at the low end of the pre-sale estimate of $284 million to $383 million, with 83 percent of the 64 lots on offer finding buyers.

It featured some big numbers with five works selling for more than $20 million. But results were uneven as offerings by such contemporary stars such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons either underperformed or failed to sell.

Barnett Newman's "Onement VI," a vibrant blue work from 1953 being sold by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, fetched the top price - $43,845,000 including commission. It set a record for the artist, beating the high estimate of $40 million.

But it was the 81-year-old Richter's "Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan)," offered by the Hyatt Hotels Corp., which broke the record already held by Richter for a work at auction by a living artist. It sold for $37,125,000, near the middle of the $30 million to $40 million estimate.

Tobias Meyer, head of Sotheby's contemporary art department who also served as auctioneer, called the price "a major accomplishment."

The work, which Sotheby's sold about 15 years ago for about $3.5 million, was bought by collector Don Bryant, founder of Napa's Bryant Family Vineyard. He pumped his fist in the air as the hammer came down with his winning bid.

"This just knocks me over," he said of the work, which depicts a cityscape rendered in a style that suggests a blurred photograph, after the sale.   Continued...

Sotheby's New York image shows a 1968 oil painting by German artist Gerhard Richter titled "Domplatz, Mailand" in this handout released on May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Sotheby's New York/Handout via Reuters