Issue #108  7/17/2006
NYC Sotheby's Tops $185 Million On Two Days of Contemporary Art Sales, as Gursky Photo Hits Record of $2,256, 000

By Stephen Perloff
Editor of The Photograph Collector

Sotheby's May 10 evening sale of contemporary art earned a whopping $128,752,000, surpassing the high estimate of $123,650,000, and achieving the highest total for an evening sale of contemporary art at Sotheby's. New auction records were established for 10 artists, including Robert Ryman, Andreas Gursky, Christopher Wool, John Chamberlain, Lisa Yuskavage, Cecily Brown, Mark Di Suvero, Sean Scully, Blinky Palermo and Neo Rauch. Highlighting the evening was Willem de Kooning's "Untitled XVI", an abstract painting from 1975, which drew competition from no fewer than five bidders, finally selling for $15,696,000, and far surpassing its $8.5 million pre-sale high estimate. It shared the position of the evening's top lot with Roy Lichtenstein's iconic pop painting "Sinking Sun", which also brought $15,696,000. The sale was 96.9% sold by value and 95.4% sold by lot, with 35 lots selling for more than $1 million each.

"This was the most extraordinary sale we've ever had, exceeding expectations in every way," commented Tobias Meyer, worldwide head of contemporary art. "Collectors are buying with enormous passion and determination at levels we haven't seen before. Rare and iconic works with strong visual impact sparked ferocious competition with masterpieces transcending all price points."

Gursky's 99-cent diptych sold for record $2,256,000.
Gursky's 99-cent diptych sold for record $2,256,000.

The sole photograph in the evening sale, Andreas Gursky's "99 Cent", a large-scale work from 1999 of store shelves that was being sold by Peter Brant brought an astonishing $2,256,000 over an estimate of $1-$1.5 million, a record for the artist as well as for a contemporary photograph at auction and second only to Steichen's "Moonlight--The Pond".

In the day sale on May 11, estimates were also largely irrelevant. As Robert Looker, vice president of Sotheby's contemporary department, commented, "We are thrilled with today's hugely successful sale of Contemporary Art which totaled $56,348,200, topping the pre-sale high estimate of $23.8 million. This brings the two-day total for contemporary art at Sotheby's to $185,100,200, the highest total for contemporary art in Sotheby's history. As we saw last night, there was great depth of bidding across the board, and collectors bought what they liked. In many cases, quality works drove the competition to multiples of the estimates as evidenced by Takashi Murkami's "Nirvana", which sold for $1,136,000 ($300,000-$500,000), Ed Ruscha's "Metro Petro Neuro Psycho", which also sold for $1,136,000 ($180,000-$250,000), and Richard Pettibon's "Self Portrait as Goofy-Foot", which soared past the $70,000-$90,000 pre-sale estimate to bring $744,000, setting a new world record for the artist at auction."

The top photo lots of the day sale were Hiroshi Sugimoto's "Mirtoan Sea, Sounion" ($150,000-$200,000) at $307,200; Richard Prince's "Untitled (Cowboys)" ($180,000-$250,000) at $216,000 and his "Untitled (Bain de Soleil)" ($80,000-$120,000) at $156,000; "Nudes Pea 10" ($40,000–$60,000) at $156,000, "Nudes CA 04" ($50,000-$70,000) at $144,000, and "Substrat 7-11" ($60,000-$80,000) at $114,000, by Thomas Ruff; Andres Serrano's "Red Pope I-III"($60,000–$80,000) at $108,000; Louise Lawler's "Marilyn" ($30,000–$40,000) at $108,000; Peter Beard's "World-Record Class Black Rhino" (Circa 47"), "Aberdare Forest, 1972" ($50,000-$70,000) at $108,000; Cindy Sherman's "Untitled Film Still #54" ($100,000-$150,000) at $102,000; and Beard's "Loliondo Lion Charge" ($40,000-$50,000) at $96,000.

(Copyright ©2006 by The Photograph Collector.)

My thanks to Steve Perloff and The Photograph Collector Newsletter for giving me permission to use this information. The Photograph Collector, which is a wonderful newsletter that I can heartily recommend, is published monthly and is available by subscription for $149.95. You can phone 1-215-891-0214 and charge your subscription or send a check or money order to: The Photograph Collector, 140 East Richardson Ave, Langhorne, PA 19047. Or to order The Photograph Collector Newsletter online, go to: http://www.photoreview.org/wordpressindex/shop/.