New York auction of post-war and contemporary art gives Sotheby’s its biggest take yet
Art collectors dug deep into their pockets on Wednesday and smashed records for a second straight night as Sotheby’s held the biggest auction in its history, led by a record-setting $105 million (€78 million) work by Andy Warhol.
The auction of postwar and contemporary art totalled $380.6 million (€283 million) and set new auction records for major artists Cy Twombly and Brice Marden.
Of the 61 lots on offer only seven failed to sell. The total was just shy of the $394 million high pre-sale estimate and marked the auction house’s second solid success in a row after it scored with a $290 million sale of Impressionist and modern art a week ago.
The sale’s expected highlight far exceeded expectations. Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Doubled Disaster), from his seminal death and disaster series, soared to $105,445,000 including commission, 50 per cent higher than the late pop artist’s previous auction record of $71.7 million.
Sotheby’s did not disclose the buyer, who was bidding by telephone. It had estimated the nearly 2.7m by 4.2m work from 1963 to sell for “in excess of $60 million” but that figure turned out to be the opening bid.
BEIJING — A wood sculpture of a larger-than-life man’s head whose gaping mouth is stuffed with a plug — a piece of Chinese protest art from more than 30 years ago — was supposed to be a star attraction at a retrospective here.
The startling visage, called “Silence,” born as a cri de coeur against the censorship of the period after the Cultural Revolution in China, was shown briefly during an artistic spring in Beijing in 1979 and 1980, before being banished.
Even today, says the creator of the work, Wang Keping, who lives in exile in France, his signature sculpture is too hot. “Silence” is notably absent from the exhibition of his works from his years abroad at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in the fashionable 798 Art Zone in Beijing.
“If it were part of the exhibit, there would be no exhibit,” Mr. Wang said as he showed a visitor dozens of dark-wood abstract sculptures, some of them hinting at the bodies of men and women, made in his studio outside Paris.
These newer pieces, including two towering black sculptures that in style and shape faintly recall the heads on Easter Island, proved acceptable to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture. The bureau must see in advance the number and subject of artworks imported for exhibits.
The Chinese authorities were in fact never given a chance to judge “Silence” anew.