Sotheby's scores its second-best post-war, contemporary art total

Wed May 13, 2015 9:11am EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A day after rival Christie's sold the most expensive painting in auction history, Sotheby's fell just shy of its best-ever contemporary art result, taking in some $380 million and setting records for artists including Christopher Wool and Sigmar Polke.

Led by Mark Rothko's untitled yellow and blue oil from 1954 which sold for $46.5 million -- nearer the low end of its pre-sale estimate -- the auction saw steady, if not unfettered bidding for top works by Roy Lichtenstein, Gerhard Richter, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol.

Of the 63 works on offer only seven failed to find buyers, though a number of its top-priced works came in nearer the low estimates.

The sale totaled $379,676,000, including Sotheby's commission of just over 12 percent, well within its pre-sale estimate of $315 million to $411 million.

Officials hailed the result as a huge success, some $500,000 short of Sotheby's' best-ever total for a post-war and contemporary auction.

"The depth of global participation this evening was extraordinary," said senior international specialist for contemporary art and auctioneer Oliver Barker, echoing sentiments prevalent for several years running about the expanding and increasingly global art market.

Among the sale's high points, Wool's Untitled (RIOT) soared to $29.9 million, doubling the estimate and breaking his auction record.

Lichtenstein's "The Ring (Engagement)" was bought by an Asian collector, fetching $41.7 million, short of its $50 million estimate. But in a sign of the ever-soaring prices for top-tier post-war works, Sotheby's noted that "The Ring" had sold for $2.2 million when it was last auctioned in 1997.   Continued...