Last night’s sale at Sotheby’s quietly closed a stupefying week of contemporary art auctions in New York. The event came slightly shy of its $394 million estimate, achieving $380.6 million, with 89 percent of lots sold. That figure doesn’t come near Christie’s record-toppling $692 million total the previous night, but it does establish a record as the highest-grossing sale ever at the auction house.
More than a quarter of that total came from the sale of Andy Warhol’s 1963 masterpiece Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), a massive pair of conjoined canvases that went for $105.4 million—dramatically surpassing the artist’s previous record of $71.7 million, set for a similar but smaller work from the series in green.
The Sotheby’s total was bolstered by a few other surprise hits. A large, chaotic collage by Mark Bradford, whose auction record soared to new heights in London last month, once again broke into new market territory, selling for a record $2.6 million over a $600,000 to $800,000 presale estimate. And the Bruce High Quality Foundation had a silkscreen from 2012, titled Hooverville and seeming to depict two homeless men sitting on a scale model of New York City while burning skyscrapers in a trash can for warmth, go for well above its $200,000 to $300,000 estimate when it fetched $425,000—a particularly impressive feat for the collective's evening-sale debut.
The Dia Art Foundation also triumphed with its sale of artworks from its permanent collection. After two of the institution's founders withdrew a legal challenge to the sale, bidders last night spent a total of $38.4 million on a number of the postwar works, with the proceeds now going to support a new acquisition fund for Dia's planned Chelsea branch. The top lot from the collection was a suite of 24 Cy Twombly drawings, Poems to the Sea (1959), which raced past its $6 million to $8 million estimate to sell for a stunning $21.7 million, setting a new record for the artist. A red-white-and-blue crushed-car sculpture by John Chamberlain also performed well, selling for nearly twice its $2.5 million estimate at $4.6 million.
Meanwhile, an early Agnes Martin grid painting that has been on loan to Dia:Beacon for 13 years more than doubled its $3 million estimate, which was underbid by former MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, but ultimately sold to dealer Neal Meltzer for $6.5 million.
The evening auction wasn't alone in creating market waves. At today's afternoon sale, a trove of sculptural jewelry by Alexander Calderfrom Philadelphia's Makler Gallery knocked every single estimate out of the park. A pair of brass mobile-like earrings expected to fetch between $60,000 and $80,000 sold for $1.1 million, and a silver necklace estimated at $400,000 to $600,000 went for just shy of $2 million. Perhaps it helped that Calder has seen skyrocketing auction prices in recent years, with a record that currently towers at $18.6 million, plus he is receiving renewed attention thanks in part to a current exhibition of work inspired by Calder's jewelry at Salon 94that will be following by a major exhibition at LACMA.
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