Issue #95  10/21/2005
Christie's Sells Mapplethorpe Flowers For $1,530,400

Robert Mapplethorpe's color flower series was the subject of a second single-owner sale at Christie's. The owner had bought the entire bunch from the Robert Miller Gallery. The sale did spectacularly well. Over $1.5 million dollars and 90% of the lots (36 out of 40) were sold largely to phone and order bidders. The room had cleared out after the morning Elfering sale. To be merciful and concise, I am limiting the report to flowers that sold for over $40,000, still over 30% of the group up for auction.

To be honest, I am not a big fan of most of Mapplethorpe's flowers, which remind me either of a commercial catalogue photographer's work on steroids or custom wallpaper. Having said that, I was still impressed with the ferocity of the bidders, who attacked the auction house estimates.

On lot 208, Calla Lilies, the estimate of $25,000-35,000 was demolished by a commission bidder and the phones. The commission bidder, who was a European collector, won out at $60,000, which was good enough to place fifth in the top ten of this auction.

But that was just a light prelude to what was to happen on lot 210, Poppy. Estimated at a mere $30,000-50,000, this little flower and bud shot up like a bloody redwood tree. In the end an American collector on the phone had this flower for their lapel at a world record price for the artist of $251,200. That was to remain the top lot of this auction, but Mapplethorpe's record would itself be broken again later at Christie's multi-owner sale.

Lot 211, another single Calla Lily, sold to the room for $50,400--just at the reserve and good enough for sixth highest price in this auction.

Contrary to the title, not every lot was flowers. Lot 213 was an image of "Fruit and Urn". It sold nearly at double its high estimate at $42,000 to an American collector on the phone. That tied the lot for tenth place in this sale.

Another Poppy (lot 217) also shot up well over its estimate of $40,000-60,000 because of a buzz of phone bidder bees. The same American collector on the phone (Paddle 1764) from lot 213 took this one at $132,000, which was good enough for second place in this auction (or should I say "flower show").

Lot 219, another Calla Lilly, sold to a U.K. dealer on the phone for $102,000, a little more than double the low estimate and the third highest price of the auction.

Still another Calla Lilly (lot 222) sold to an American dealer in the room for the low estimate of $48,000--good enough for seventh place.

Bidder number 1764 was back again for lot 226, another Calla Lilly, paying just below the low estimate at $45,600, which was good enough to tie for eighth place.

Yet again another Calla Lilly (Why does this flower have to be so seductive? How about roses or carnations?) sold to an American collector on the phone for well over the high estimate at $90,000, which was good enough for fourth place in the top ten.

A Mum (of all things!), lot 231, sold to an American collector on the phone for $45,600, a tie for eighth highest priced print of the auction.

Lot 238, a unique silver print, the same image as in lot 218 only in black and white, sold to the phone for $42,000, which placed it in a tie for tenth place. Just think: you could've had color with that for $6,000 less.

NEXT NEWSLETTER: Part II: Sotheby's single-owner and multi-owner sales, and Christie's multi-owner sale--and all the records broken.