The Horror. The Horror. More Art Auction Results.

Here’s another batch of results from the November contemporary art auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. While some of these pieces are quite striking, I don’t know that you can consider ANY of them worth what they sold for. They’re trophy pieces that say more about the purchaser than the piece itself, which I believe is by design.

Here’s one of Louis Bourgeois’ beautiful spiders. Christie’s always exhibits a giant sculpture at the entrance. It’s usually one of Jeff Koons’ balloon animals but this wild arachnid does nicely. Another inspiration from the animal kingdom.

Louise Bourgeois
Estimate on Request
Sold for $28,165,000


It was unintentional, but I like the juxtaposition of the spider looming over a submissive Modigliani hottie. That’s a pretty raw poster for a public sidewalk, don’t you think? It’s right across from Rockefeller Center! There are little kids all over the place!


Speaking of…Here’s another Modigliani beauty. The painting reproduced above fetched +$170 million. This one, a modest +$42 million. Modigliani died when he was just 35 from meningitis. He was flat broke.

Amedeo Modigliani
Paulette Jourdain
Estimate on Request
Sold for $42,810,000


Time for some whimsy. Guess what this is? If you guessed an 85 inch (216 cm) piece of yarn painted three colors and tacked to the wall, give yourself a cookie.


Fred Sanderback
Untitled Wall Construction
Estimate: $60,000 – $80,000
Sold for $106,250. Exceeded expectations. Must be quality yarn.


I can’t say I’m crazy about this piece but I have a lot of respect for the effort that went into it. You probably think it’s a tapestry but you’d be WRONG. Give the cookie back.


This is made from tiny, *tiny* glass beads tacked to an aluminum panel.


Scroll back up and look at the first photo. Imagine the physical act of constructing this. It’s big. 72 x 36 inches (183 x 91 cm). What exacting, tedious, painful work.

Liza Lou
Ofensive (sic)/Defensive
Estimate: $200,000 – $300,000
Did Not Sell. What a pity.


Balloon swan! C’mon. You’ve got to like this stuff. It’s so NOT serious. Barely qualifies as art, really. That comes as a great relief to me sometimes. Too much serious art gives me a pounding headache.

Jeff Koons
Balloon Swan (Yellow)
Estimate: $15,000,000 – $25,000,000
Sold for $14,725,000


Here are two spectacular Rothkos. There’s such a sameness to his work that you’d think I’d grow tired of looking at this stuff but I never do. I’m convinced you all think I’m nuts but you have to see these Rothkos in a gallery setting. These canvases GLOW. My photos are crap. Don’t trust them.

Mark Rothko
No. 6/Sienna, Orange on Wine
Estimate: $20,000,000 – $30,000,000
Sold for $17,610,000


Especially this one. It was set off in a dark corner. The walls surrounding it were painted black and the lighting was perfect. This thing throbbed. I stood there a long time saying hello and goodbye.

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Lavender and Green)
Estimate: $20,000,000 – $30,000,000
Sold for $20,410,000


This is one of the last Blue Period Picasso paintings in private hands. Personally, I think it’s kind of ugly although Christie’s insists it’s “striking.” Picasso was broke when he painted it. (He didn’t stay broke for long.) Like many broke-ass painters, he used both sides of the canvas.


Christie’s mounted the painting so you could see both sides. You had to walk around a wall constructed in the center of the gallery.


The verso illustration was painted upside-down from the front so they set up a mirror that allowed you to view it right-side up. This is Picsso’s friend and flatmate Pere Mañach. It was considered too ribald by Picasso’s early dealers and covered up. This second painting wasn’t discovered until 2000.

Pablo Picasso
La Gommeuse
Estimate on Request
Sold for $67,450,000


A piece of stone held up by two iron brackets. On the stone is a little pile of bread, a little pile of sugar and some water. That’s it.

Giovanni Anselmo
Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000
Sold for $122,500


Hey, remember Claes Oldenburg’s giant typewriter eraser from the previous auction report? Well, here’s his giant clothespin. Number two from an edition of three. Maybe the fact that there are only two others makes you feel better about spending +$3,000,000 for a giant clothespin. I make fun but I like it.

Claes Oldenburg
Clothespin Ten Foot
Estimate: $1,200,000 – $1,800,000
Sold for $3,637,000. Well done, Claes. 


Hey, remember the piece of yarn from above? Same guy. I’m not talking about the yellow cube on the white pedestal. That’s a different piece by a different artist. I’m talking about the piece of red yarn tacked to the floor and wall.


Curious. It doesn’t have a title. Can someone suggest a title for this piece?

Fred Sandback
Estimate: $200,000 – $300,000
Sold for $221,000


I was so thirsty. I turned the corner and was happy to see a water fountain. What a relief! A nice, cool drink…oh…wait…not so fast. It’s made of graphite. Like a pencil? That kind of graphite? Is this like one of Duchamp’s readymades? So lazy.

Adam McEwen
Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000
Sold for $293,000. Well above the estimate. Imagine that.


This is from Picasso’s Blue Lobster period. Ha. See what I did there? I only included this painting so I could crack that joke and sound clever. But I do like it. Blue lobsters are rare but real. There’s an aquarium on a New Jersey boardwalk that has one. They’re beautiful.

Pablo Picasso
Le Homard Dans un Panier
Estimate: $1,500,000 – $2,500,000
Sold for $2,165,000


Oh, dear. This is Damien Hirst’s medicine cabinet filled with drugs. In his “Pharmaceutical Heaven,” he described the piece as like a body. Originally, he was going to place the remedies for your head on the top shelves, the guts in the middle and those for your feet at the bottom.


In the end he went with a pleasing color scheme. That’s what I would’ve done, too.

Damien Hirst
Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000
Sold for $545,000


It has occurred to me that most of the pieces in this review can be considered a joke. Actually, art being subjective, ALL of them could be considered a joke. I usually try to mix the good with the bad but pointing your finger is such delicious fun, isn’t it?

We trimmed our Christmas tree. These two ornaments are my favorites.


83 thoughts on “The Horror. The Horror. More Art Auction Results.

  1. I am constantly amazed by these. Not in a positive way. The yarn in particular…. Wow.

    Did you know orange lobsters are even more rare than blue? The blue are 1 in 2 million but orange are 1 in 3 million 🙂

    • Really think about the amount of money being spent on these. The amount you pay for one can take care of you for the rest of your life.

      Are you serious about the orange lobsters? Because they’re pretty orange when they come out of the pot.

      • Yes I absolutely think about how much good $14M could do for people… Which is only slightly tempered by knowing it’s great support for the arts is alive and well. But over a certain amount of money it makes me a little ill.

        And yes, quite serious – the orange ones do look different from the red they are when cooked. It’s all to do with their natural pigmentation (or rarely, lack thereof) and diet 🙂

      • My big joke is that it’s a good thing they didn’t give all that money to poor people. They’d just waste it on stupid stuff like housing and food. But it’s not really a joke, if you think about it long enough.

        I’m off to Google those orange lobsters. Not that you have a credibility issue but I’d like to see for myself.

  2. The yarn art should be titled “I chose the wrong career.”

    The feelings I have about reading and seeing these is this must be what it feels like to see an alternate universe. It’s my only explanation for how these people live.

    I think the buyer of the Spider is probably a mean person who wants to torture someone who’s afraid of spiders.

    • Hey! I think you’re new here! Welcome. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

      I’ve separated my feelings about art vs. the stuff you see here. This REALLY IS an alternate universe. I’ve made peace with it and just enjoy the ride. More of an entertainment than an object of serious study.

  3. I think your ornaments are more interesting than any of the artwork. I say that a bit tongue in cheek, but honestly, none of that art appeals to me. I guess that’s why art is subjective. Something for everyone.

    As for the Modigliani picture–that is pretty risque for the street. But after seeing the topless, painted women in Times Square, I guess it seems pretty tame!

    • My ornaments have a lot more heart, that’s fo’ sho’. If you saw them in person you might like them. Or you could hate them even more. That’s possible.

      Did you see the painted ladies on your trip? My 13-year old was kind of freaked out by them. We’re such a puritanical society. They’re just boobs. Why do we get to rattled?

      • We saw them, and both my 15-year-old and I were uncomfortable. We were uncomfortable because we were seeing them together. Had I been on my own, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. But that doesn’t mean I like seeing them there. They may just be boobs, but I don’t particularly want to see them. Nor did I particularly want to see the Naked Cowboy’s tighty whities. But it does make for an interesting experience!

      • Yeah, I had the same experience with my daughter. I guess the level of horror depends on who you’re with. But let’s both remember that this is New York City. It’s certainly cleaned-up from when 42nd Street was wall to wall porn theaters, but it’s still kind of rough around the edges. Most people wouldn’t have it any other way and would be disappointed if they came here and it was no different than Milwaukee.

      • That’s true. It’s nice to be able to be surprised and a little shocked when we visit New York. Of course, near me in Akron we have a guy making national news because he’s walking around with his rifle on his back. I’ll take the topless ladies and Naked Cowboy any day.

  4. I wonder if people who spend this sort of money are selective or just working a tax fiddle? I like Picasso and Modigliani, but not all of their work. If you gave me Leonardo’s Mona Lisa I’d give it back.If you gave me one of his schematics for a flying machine I’d spend hours looking at it.
    Once again, you’ve shown me artwork I’d otherwise probably never see.

  5. I can appreciate the Rothkos because of the effort put into the color effect and display in the gallery… and that “throbbing” sensation you spoke of is intended I’m sure. But so many of the others, even as expressions of taste, really do just make me laugh! I wish you had more info on the artist’s intentions (which might not even be available) so I knew what that red yarn was all about! Still love these posts, though, always fascinating to see the work and the prices!

    • I like to serve up as broad a perspective as possible. It’s easier to tell just how great the great works are if you have some silly nonsense to compare it to. It’s all about juxtaposition. Lots of things benefit from juxtaposition. Movies. Art. Music. Life. Football.

      Trying to seek out the intent is actually a pretty great idea. I had absolutely no clue what the cubists were up to until I had it explained to me. Picasso, too. It helps.

      • That’s why I take so long at art exhibits… you know there’s always intention or a message there… the challenge is figuring it out. And if you can relate to the message, that’s where the appreciation comes in – when you feel it… which is what art should be about anyway. Now back to tree trimming – my goal for the day! 🙂

  6. Don’t like the spider. Not a fan of the eight legged things but i’m sure kids will be fascinated or terrified.

    Rothko, I love. I don’t know why like you but I have two in my house.(prints not real..hahahaha) There’s something about them isn’t there. You can just stare at them for ages and ages. Do you think we are capable of painting something similar? Shall we have a Rothko competition?

    The piece of yarn is STUPID.

    I like the balloon swan, it reminds me of the tulips sculpture in the Wynn hotel in Vegas. It’s grown up wonderland.

    Yes I can give you a title for the pinned yarn piece: Farcical.

    Like your literary tree hangings. How much are they going for?

    • I’ve done just that! Stared at Rothkos for an inordinately long period of time. I want to a retrospective once and at one point, you walked into a dim room and were surrounded by these paintings. Wow! What a ride!

      When were you in Vegas? Have we discussed that? Have you blogged about it? Leave a link if you did.

      Pretty expensive farce.

      My ornaments are priceless. Unlike the art, they truly are priceless.

      • I went there a couple years back. I wanted to see the American version of Paris…;) Never blogged about it. Just back from Budapest – I’ll fill you in on that instead.

        You hold hard Mark, don’t give in to the commercial pressure!

      • Good heavens! Budapest? There’s a place I never would have thought to go. It’s not that I wouldn’t or don’t want to. It just wouldn’t dawn on me to go there. Get writing.

  7. My town is the self-proclaimed Granite Capital of Canada, a title no one else appears to be clambering for. Yesterday was the annual Christmas bazaar, this year held in the Granite Expo Centre, which features various granite products. So you had tables of knitted items, crafts and back goods surrounded by tombstones. If that’s not art, what is?

    Title for your untitled: “It’s A Trapezoid!”

  8. I can see why we could joke about all this art, especially the yarn on the wall. What? I got a title for the untitled. It’s called “Red on Grey.” That’s how inspired I am. That is some raw poster on the street. I bet that one turns some heads. Here’s a fun fact. Did you happen to know that lobsters are immortal. They just grow back their old parts and stop aging very early on. That’s all I know, but I found that pretty fascinating. Great ornaments. Is that Shakespeare?

    • I certainly consider many of these pieces to be funny but the people paying that kind of money sure don’t. Maybe I’m just jealous. Lobsters are immortal except for the one I ate two weeks ago. He definitely had a mortality rate. That is indeed William Shakespeare hanging on my tree. Well done! It’s a souvenir from when I visited Stratford on Avon a million years and another lifetime. ago.

  9. Someone paid $300K for a fake water fountain? That somebody sure was thirsty.
    I’m also concerned about the effect the entrance could have on little kids, because that spider sure is terrifying.

    • It was no mere fake fountain. It was a fountain made of graphite. How can you leave that part out?

      Her spider sculptures are actually pretty awesome. They mounted a big one in the plaza at Rockefeller Center one summer and some people thought it was a bit much for a public display. I loved it.

  10. Oh, forgot about the yarn. That looks like a cheap imitation of laser alarm system. Also, I got a ball of red yard and some nails, so I think I’m going to put a $200K piece of art in my apartment this week.

    • We all have some yarn tucked in a drawer somewhere. What you’re missing–what we’re ALL missing–is proper gallery representation. You need someone who can sell bullshit to the well-heeled. You have to speak a special language and inhabit a certain world. Then you’re set.

    • Hi, Vanessa. I’m always genuinely pleased to see you drop by. Instead of listing how preposterous some of the pieces are, you focus on the ones you like. I think that speaks volumes about your personality. Another sunny Brit. I’m with you on the balloon swan. I like all his stuff. And I like a lot of Hirst pieces, but not so much this one.

  11. The breadcrumbs and sugar piece crossed a new boundary for me. What happens if the food falls off when you move it, or gets eaten by hungry insects? Are you allowed to add new servings?

    If a perfect replica of a work of art can be made for less than 1% of the price, I would say the emperor is naked.

    • Okay, how about this? The breadcrumbs and sugar are a metaphor for the impermanence of life and art. It’s a reminder of how one strong wind or a couple of hungry cockroaches can ruin a piece.

      It’s also a metaphor for how easy it is to grab some sucker’s money.

  12. That fancee yarn is gonna make a heckuva scarf, right?

    I like the art that barely qualifies as art sometimes, just when it’s in the form of balloon animals vs. yarn remnants.

    The tapestry/bead piece is pretty awesome, I am sorry it didn’t sell. I also wonder what the street value would have been for actual drugs in that cabinet vs. the selling price?

    • Hey! You’re new here! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Much obliged.

      Apparently, there’s yarn and there’s YARN. You’d never want to make a scarf out of YARN. You need to use yarn for that.

      I used to be all uppity about art and sneer at a lot of it but I’ve loosened up and find I’m having a lot more fun. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

      The lot description in the Hirst piece said they’re just packages. I don’t believe there are actually any drugs in there. Wish I’d thought of that. I’d have checked.

  13. ‘Balloon Swan’ reminds me of a Lite Brite board. My that little game was brilliant. I’m hoping to see some more Rothko when we’re in London next month. That was the first time art like this really hit me, seeing his works in a London museum, and how the color and lines just vibrated in some weird way. We have a couple knock-offs of him framed in this flat we’re in now in Dublin. Funny how it just isn’t the same.

    • Lite Brite
      Making things with light
      Out of sight
      Making things with Lite Brite

      Isn’t it astonishing what gets stuck in our heads and stays there? Scary.

      I can’t wait until you get to London. My favorite town and I haven’t been there for years. So sad not to travel. I miss traveling terribly. I’m grounded. I hope your kids are appreciating it. I hope they feel privileged.

  14. The blue lobster is pretty cool. The spider is my worst nightmare. Outside of my daughter’s school are three huge sculptures of rock, paper, scissors. My kids love to play on them. That’s about all the “art” I get to see out here in the boondocks. Thanks for these posts because otherwise I would never have known how much a piece of string is worth.

    • Hey, You’re in Maine. Have you ever seen a blue lobster? Because that would be pretty cool. And pretty cliché.

      You should drive down to your kid’s school and slap a pfat price tag on those sculptures. Maybe I’ll see the scissors sculpture in front of Christie’s next spring.

      You left out the part about the piece of string being painted three colors. Ack! No eye for art at all!

  15. I always enjoy these Art reports. I am amazed how much $ all of Jeff Koons balloon figures bring. I do like them because of the their Boteroesque size proportions.
    I agree about the Rothko’s, since I’ve seen them in person at different museums.
    The drinking fountain probably isn’t 100% graphite, more like 50% or less. I’m sure ‘LIES’ is violating some kind of anal drug law. Don’t get caught with prescription drugs that are not yours.
    Nice cerebral touch for the daughters on the Xmas ornament.

    • I enjoy writing these posts in the way that someone enjoys delivering outrageous news to provoke a reaction. I am the consummate devil’s advocate.

      Thank you for your comment about the Rothkos. I feel weirdly validated.

      The lot description of LIES said that their packages. I assume they’re empty.

      Every time I see the word “cerebral” it reminds me of my favorite lyric from my favorite Ramones song, Teenage Lobotomy:

      Now I guess I’ll have to tell ’em
      That I got no cerebellum

      They don’t write ’em like that anymore.

  16. I’ve always liked Rothko, these are easy on the eyes. I think I only like Picasso because he’s…well, Picasso and I think I must. But really, is it inspired or just bad? And is it better than a piece of red string?

    • I saw a play on Broadway about Rothko once and if the play is to be believed, he was a real son of a bitch. I’m pretty sure there was some dramatic license taken but there’s probably more than a graham of truth. Rothko was played by Alfred Molina, who also played Dr. Octopus in the Spider-Man movie. Two villains.

      The breadth of Picasso’s work is so broad that there’s some stuff I really like and other stuff that makes me laugh. That’s what makes Picasso one of the real greats. Rothko, Pollock and guys like Robert Motherwell had, basically, one painting they redid over and over. Picasso constantly reinvented himself.

  17. These posts are the best. I can’t afford a real Rothko, so I’m planning on painting my own to display in my living room (because I’m 99.8% sure I can do just as well). The Blue and Grey piece would look particularly nice, as my living room is decorated in – you guessed it – shades of blue and gray.

    Question about the yarn piece – does the artist come to your house to install it, or do you just walk away with a piece of yarn? I can barely muster the energy to hang photos on the wall, much less tack a piece of uncooperative string to my ceiling.

    • If you end up painting a Rothko ‘homage’ I demand photos. I’m betting, like most things in life, it’s not as easy as it looks. I could be mistaken, but I think the artist who did the yarn piece has passed away and his estate installs the piece for you.

      These pre-auction viewings are tremendous fun to attend and I love doing these posts. But if I think about the money too much it makes me sad.

      • Oh I’m sure it is much harder than it looks. I should have mentioned that me doing it “just as well” factors in the price difference of $20M for the finished Rothko to $50 in materials for my imitation. This tutorial ( seems to be a decent guide, but talks about things I don’t understand, like underpainting and glazing, which I’m supposing is how Rothko gets the paintings to “glow”.

        Thinking about money frequently makes me sad. I don’t have it, and feel like I shouldn’t want it, as I’m perfectly happy, blessed with friends, family, and all the important stuff. But wouldn’t I be even happier with it? I think I’d like to try.

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