An Andy Warhol grid of four day-glo Marilyns constituted half of the total sales at last night’s timid $78.6 million auction at Phillips, which closes the week of modern and contemporary art sales in New York. The screenprint, done the year after Monroe died, in 1962, depicts Warhol’s greatest muse as if still filled with life. It sold to Gagosian Gallery’s Victoria Gelfand for $38.2 million, safely within its $35 million-$45 million presale estimate.
There was a three-way tie for the second spot of the evening: Christopher Wool's 1992 text canvas And If, Thomas Schütte's weather-ready COR-TEN steel figurative sculpture, and Roy Lichtenstein's Ben-Day-dotted fruit still-life achieved nearly $4.1 million apiece.
But the bidding remained tempered throughout the rest of the night, and even saw a few stumbles: a late painting of two faces on a collaged background by Jean-Michel Basquiat, who has been a market sure thing in recent months, failed to sell at its $5 million-$7 milllion estimate, while Cady Noland—who holds the world auction record for a living woman artist ($6.6 million)—had a section of chain-link fence go unsold at $500,000-$700,0000.
Apart from a few more passes on Basquiat drawings, there was a bit more enthusiasm at Phillips’s day sale this morning, typically the less scrutinized segment of the two-part sale. Perennial auction favorite Dana Schutz sold a small painting of a girl sneezing shrapnel-like bursts of color for a staggering $245,000, on an estimate of $30,000-$40,000, during Phillips's day sale. Meanwhile, in the evening auction Schutz’s fantastical 2003 painting of a purple zebra curled up in death went for $365,000, easily above its $300,000 high estimate.
Los Angeles-based artist Walead Beshty also performed well this morning with a print of electrifying beams of colors mounted in a plexiglass box that went for $68,750 (est. $35,00-$45,000) and a signature FedEx shipping box that sold for $75,000 (est. $60,000-$80,000).
There were a few other highlights elsewhere in the sale: a grainy Vik Muniz print of a Caribbean child "drawn" out of sugar quadrupled its estimate, selling to a buyer in the room for $81,250; a grim KAWS canvas sold for $149,000; and a sweetly simple Lichtenstein sunset drawing doubled its estimate to bring in $112,500—a day after the artist achieved a new record at Christie's.
And then there’s Jacob Kassay, who, now that his estimates seem to serve more as target practice than as sales guideposts, doesn't seem to warrent much mention. But we’ll note anyway that one of the artist’s ultra-salable silver monochromes once again doubled its presale estimate, going for $233,000 in the day sale.
Read the week's other auction stories: