Issue #115  11/22/2006
Gursky 99 Cent Again Breaks Record For a Contemporary Photo At $2.48 Million

The second Andreas Gursky's "99 Cent II Diptychon" (2001) to come up in the last six months broke the world auction record again for a contemporary photograph when it sold at Phillips de Pury (New York) this past week. Estimated at $2.5 million to $3.5 million, the final price of $2.48 million was just over the record set this past May at Sotheby's New York when the same image sold for $2,256,000. Both prices included the buyer's premium (the estimates did not).

Apparently, only one telephone bidder, who was an unidentified European collector (the underbidder at the earlier Sotheby's sale?), wanted the Gursky 99 Cent, a photograph of a 99-cent store's interior. The Gursky was being sold by Adam D. Sender (who consigned the bulk of this sale), a hedge fund manager and collector, who bought the photography diptych from New York photography art dealer Matthew Marks.

Richard Prince's 1997 "Untitled (Cowboy)," yet another image of the Marlboro Man, was estimated at $800,000 to $1.2 million. Paul Thiebaud, a San Francisco contemporary art dealer, bought it for $744,000, including premium. This copy photograph was No.2 in an edition of two, plus one artist's proof.

Cindy Sherman's rip-off of a Dutch oil painting, Untitled #212, 1989, fetched the high estimate at $180,000. But you did get this nice frame with it.

Thomas Struth's "Paradise 2 (Pilgrim Sands) Daintree/Australia" (1998) sold for $120,000, against an estimate of $60,000-80,000. Frankly, for that much money, I would rather take a trip to Australia and see the real thing.

Gilbert & George's "Black Buds", 16 black and white photographs in artist's frames, came in at the top of its estimate range at $240,000.

Gerhard Richter's "Ema (Nude Descending a Staircase) sold for a whopping $372,400. Richter says this about the photograph: "In the photograph, I take even more focus out of the painted image, which is already a bit out of focus, and make the picture even smoother. I also subtract the materiality, the surface of the painting, and it becomes something different." Yeh. Right. You copied the artwork to make even more money. We get it.

Warhol's "Jackie" (1964), an acrylic and silkscreen made from a photograph of Jacqueline Kennedy smiling in the Dallas motorcade moments before her husband Jack was assassinated, was estimated at $500,000-700,000. Three bidders battled it out for the object, but in the end it was New York dealer Alberto Mugrabi who finally nailed it for $856,000. The price seemed a relative bargain on a prorated basis, since Warhol's "Sixteen Jackies," also from 1964, sold at Christie's on the previous Wednesday night for $15.6 million, or about a million per Jackie.

According to art writer and critic Brian Appel, "It is not known how many Warhol images Mugrabi owns but conservative estimates put him at holding a cache of Warhols to the tune of $200 million. Could be a lot more. Mugrabi is known for buying up Warhols at the bottom of the last art world bust in 1992-1993. Put another way...he was buying the 12 by 10-inch "MAO" paintings that are now going for $1 million and more a pop for $15,000. By the way, everytime he buys a Warhol now at top dollar his inventory rises proportionally."

Charles Ray's "All My Clothes," a 1963 series of 16 photographs, self-portraits of the artist wearing every outfit in his wardrobe, from an edition of 12 plus three artist's proofs, brought $273,600 from a telephone bidder, who turned out to be a U.S. contemporary art dealer. It had been estimated at only $100,000 to $150,000. Frankly, for that amount you could really dress up in style yourself. Heck, why not get tricked out in a Porsche while you are at it.