To laugh or weep: contemporary art auction results

I’m sure many of you read about the Basquiat that sold for $110 million to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. He relayed his bids to a Sotheby’s specialist on his iPhone, which I find quaint for some reason. The work was listed as ‘estimate on request,’ but nobody expected it to sell for that much. That’s Picasso and Monet territory.

To his credit, Maezawa plans to open a museum in his hometown of Chiba, Japan, to showcase his sizeable collection. He told The New York Times, “I want to show beautiful things and share them with everyone. It would be a waste just to keep it all to myself.” Good on you, sir.

That’s the drama of this season’s auctions. Are you ready for the comedy? Let’s kick the door open and break the hinges with these excruciating exercises in pomposity. On the left, the word “PLEASE” stenciled six times onto a sheet of aluminum. On the right, four shop vacs in a Plexiglas case with neon lights.

Christopher Wool
Untitled
Estimate: $15,000,000-20,000,000
Sold for $17,159,500

Jeff Koons
New Shelton Wet/Drys 10 Gallon, New Shelton Wet/Drys 5 Gallon Doubledecker
Estimate: $7,000,000-9,000,000
Sold for $7,863,500

 

What’s the intrinsic value of a piece of red yarn tacked to a wall?

Fred Sandback
Untitled (Diagonal Cornered Construction)
Estimate: $70,000-100,000
Sold for $60,000

I can’t poke you with a sharp stick throughout the entire post with terrible art. I’m not a complete curmudgeon. I’ve gone hot and cold over Roy Lichtenstein over the years but this piece was bold and stark. Estimate on request always kills me. It sounds like a dare.

Roy Lichtenstein
Nude Sunbathing
Estimate on request
Sold for $24,000,000

I’m no fan of Basquiat. I think his stuff is infantile. Plus, I don’t respect him for throwing it all away on an OD. Poor, tortured, artist. Boo hoo. Idiot. But this is nice. I like Lester Young.

Jean-Michael Basquiat
In The Wings
Estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000
Sold for $5,975,000

Ugly and violent. I turned the corner and this was high on the wall. It looked very real.

Maurizio Cattelan
Untitled
Estimate: $1,000,000-1,500,000
Sold for $1,507,500

This was one of the showcase lots. I happen to like Francis Bacon but I can understand it if you don’t.

These are based on photos of George Dyer. Dyer was the great love of his life but the relationship was a bouillabaisse of alcohol, abuse and dysfunction. They met when Dyer, a small-time cat burglar, broke into Bacon’s studio in the middle of the night to rob him. Bacon caught him and said if he didn’t go to bed with him, he’d call the police.

Francis Bacon
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer
Estimate on Request
Sold for $51,767,500

Speaking of British eccentrics:

There’s always one that defies commentary.

Damien Hirst
Dog Days
Glass, wood, paint, cigarettes, cigars, ash and lipstick
Estimate: $350,000-450,000
Sold for $468,500

~~~~~~~~~~

bins

April 27, 1993

I was sitting on the sofa finishing Barry Gifford’s Wild at Heart—wonderful—when suddenly, someone in the hallway started screaming at the top of their lungs, “HELP! HELP! MURDER! HELP ME!” It was the most God-awful, horrible thing I’ve ever heard. The hair on my legs stood up. The first thing I did was turn the lights off because, believe me, you don’t want to get involved in this neighborhood. I’ve read one too many stories about good Samaritans getting the shiv. [Note: What a hero I was. What a man of action.]

I looked out the peephole and the guy across the hall poked his head out the door but didn’t go into the hallway. Someone must’ve called the cops because in about ninety seconds the place was filled with them. They all piled into the apartment next door where those two gay guys live. Two minutes later two cops casually walk out talking about the softball league. Meanwhile, my heart is hammering in my chest.

About ten minutes after that, the cops escorted someone out who was carrying a suitcase. I didn’t recognize him. He must’ve been a weekend guest or something.

What must it be like being a cop? They arrive expecting bloody murder and they’re met with a bunch of gay guys having a domestic dispute. But it could’ve just as easily gone the other way. What a job! Those guys are fucking idiots. You don’t scream bloody murder on this block unless you’ve got someone with a gun on the other side of your door trying to get it. I called Lynne in the front office this morning and she didn’t know anything about it. Didn’t hear a thing. How is that possible?!

Art + Commerce = The Fall Auction Report

I look forward to these semi-annual auctions with a near mania. I find this stuff endlessly fascinating. What is art? Every time I go to the autumn and spring auction previews at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, I am forced to reexamine what I think art is and isn’t. It’s good to be nimble in your thinking. It’ll keep you young.

Keep in mind that after the auctions, these pieces pass into private collections never to be seen again. I’ll mix the sublime with the hideous. I welcome your debate and disagreement. You can click on these for detail.

I’ll start off with a genuine treasure. Even though some people find the Impressionists pedestrian, I think we can all agree that their work is important and deserves respect. And, seriously, who wouldn’t want a Monet in their dining room?

Claude Monet
Nympheas
Estimate: $30,000,000 – $50,000,000
Sold for $33,850,000

monet

I was not a fan of Cubism until just a couple of years ago when I had it explained to me via an audio guide at a Cubism exhibit at the Met. Now I enjoy it. Always get the audio guide.

Georges Braque
Le Violon
Estimate: $12,000,000 – $18,000,000
Sold for $8,202,000

braque1

Do you know what I love about this piece? One of the materials Braque used was sand. It gives the piece a fantastic earthy quality.

braque2

Here’s another guy who people pay a lot of cash for but is considered to be marginally talented by others. Margaret Thatcher called him “that horrible man.” That’s good enough for me. I like him.

Francis Bacon
Man With Arm Raised
Estimate: $8,000,000 – $12,000,000
Sold for $10,330,000

bacon_green

This one is my favorite. It’s the perfect case-in-point for just how pretentious art can get. The auction catalog uses flowery language like “a shimmering arrangement of color” and “rivers of shimmering, sparkly color.”

torres1

This is part of the artist’s “spilled candy” series. I’ve included the lot description in the estimate.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Untitled (LA)
Green candies individually wrapped in cellophane, endless supply. Overall dimensions vary with installation.
Estimate: $5,000,000 – $7,000,000
Sold for $7,669,000

torres2

Here’s a double header. I like both of these guys but am surprised at the valuation on the Warhol. Do you know how many of those flower silk screens he did? TONS! And I love Oldenburg’s work. I’ll bet a lot of you young punks have never seen one of those typing erasers. Now we use a delete key. I love how this photo turned out.

Andy Warhol
Late Four-Foot Flowers
Estimate: $8,000,000 – $12,000,000
Did Not Sell

Claes Oldenburg
Typewriter Eraser
Estimate: $500,000 – $700,000
Sold for $1,085,000

warhol_oldenberg

They made a big deal out of this piece. It was mounted in a prominent place in the gallery and the estimate wasn’t made public. I have no idea who this is. Do you? I thought I knew quite a lot but it turns out I don’t know SQUAT. It’s big. You’d need a big wall to hang it on.

Lucio Fontana
Concetto Spaziale, La fine di Dio
Estimate on Request
Sold for $29,173,000

fontana

Mmmmmm. Bacon. They’re studies for portraits. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you met the subjects and their faces were actually all fucked-up like that?

Francis Bacon
Two Studies for Portrait
Estimate: $12,000,000 – $18,000,000
Did Not Sell

bacon_two studies

Here’s a nice break from all the silliness. I’m not saying it’s worth what it sold for—hell, NONE of these are worth what they sold for—but you can almost understand the point. This was one of the real blockbusters. I took a close-up and am using it as a screen saver on my phone. It’s thick and juicy.

Vincent Van Gogh
Paysage Sous un Ciel Mouvement
Estimate: $50,000,000 – $70,000,000
Sold for $54,010,000

van gogh

Just look at her. Isn’t she spectacular? Her erotic submissive pose knocks me out. This was painted in 1917. Don’t you imagine people back then being reserved and sedate? Not everyone, apparently.

Amedeo Modigliani
Nu Couché
Estimate on Request
Sold for a Whopping $170,405,000

modigliani_nu coche

Like Jeff Koons, my feelings about Lichtenstein have vacillated throughout the years. Today, I like him. Next year? Check back with me. This nurse painting is considered a high point in his career.

Roy Lichtenstein
Nurse
Estimate on Request
Sold for $95,365,000

lichtenstein_nurse

Here’s a abject lesson in limitation and availability. Contrast the price realized for Nurse with this one.

Roy Lichtenstein
Crying Girl
Estimate: $7,000,000 – $9,000,000
Sold for $13,381,000

lichtenstein_crying girl

Both works were executed in 1964. The difference is that Crying Girl is the fourth in an edition of five. There’s only one Nurse. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I’d much rather hang Crying Girl.

Do you know how some people say contemporary art is garbage? From the lot description:

“Accumulation of studio refuse in Plexiglas box with lid.”

Ah! WITH the lid! That explains it. Poubelle is French for trash bin.

Arman
Grande Poubelle
Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000
Did Not Sell. Perhaps there’s hope for the art world after all.

arman

There were some pretty decent offerings by Picasso. If he’s your guy, this was your big chance. This is the cliche Picasso style depicted when someone wants to make fun of his work. Years ago, my brother explained what Pablo was up to and that lesson stuck with me. I see it.

Pablo Picasso
Femme Assise sue une Chaise
Estimate: $25,000,000 – $35,000,000
Sold for $20,074,000

picasso_femme

This is a harsh little Picasso. It’s awash in the colors and stylings of Picasso’s Spain. He looks like he’s sporting Orthadox Jewish Payot but I don’t think that was Pablo’s intent.

Pablo Picasso
Homme à l’épée
Estimate on Request
Sold for $22,565,000

picasso_homme

Some art passes in and out of my favor (Koons, Lichtenstein, etc.). But I’ve never liked Cy Twombly. The auction catalog describes this mess as being “…charged with visceral energy, a deluge of hurried lines hurtles across the canvas…” which is an elegant way of saying scribbling. He used house paint, oil, crayon and pencil on canvas. It sucks.

Cy Twombly
Untitled
Estimate: $15,000,000 – $20,000,000
Sold for 17,525,000

twommbly

I think these two Lichtensteins look pretty awesome together so I put in a bid for $400 for the pair. You can imagine how that went over.

Roy Lichtenstein
Interior with Yves Klein Sculpture
Estimate: $7,000,000 – $10,000,000
Sold for $6,661,000

Roy Lichtenstein
Glass V
Estimate: $1,800,000 – $2,500,000
Sold for $2,853,000 (not $400)

lichtenstein_glass

I’ve got a couple more—some that’ll either make you laugh very hard, make you very angry, or make you weep—but I’m going to split this into two posts.

Let’s say someone was holding a gun to a puppy and you HAD to display one of these in your home. Which one? I’m going with that Modigliani but that’s probably the last time my mother-in-law would ever visit.

ART is MONEY. MONEY is ART. The spring auction report.

“There’s something slightly boastful wanting to own these things. And there’s a prevalent sense that this is also about asset gathering, not just collecting.”

Abigail Asher
Art Consultant

Well, that’s the understatement of the year. I don’t imagine this post will get a lot of play, but I find this stuff endlessly fascinating. It was a record week at the spring Contemporary and Impressionist art auctions. Christie’s alone sold over $1 billion worth of art. As always, a splendid time was had by the 1%.


Alas, poor Vincent. Only sold one lousy painting his whole life. And that was to his brother. He’s doing okay now. This was a great piece. The blue was more vibrant than what you see here.

Vincent Van Gogh
L’Alle des Alyscamps

Estimate on Request, but believed to be +/- $40,000,000.
Sold for $66,300,000

van goghIt’s hard to look at this and feel indifferent. People either love Pollock or hate him. I understand why folks might have a problem with this, but I liked it.

Jackson Pollock
Number 12, 1950
Estimate: $15,000,000-20,000,000
Sold for $18,282,000

pollockI’ve just recently developed an appreciation for sculpture. Late to the game. If I could have this piece on this pedestal with this lighting, I’d take it.

Alberto Giacometti
Buste de Diego (Amenophis)
Estimate: $6,000,000-8,000,000
Sold for $12,794,000

giacomettiContemporary art snobs disparage the Impressionists as being about as challenging as a Hallmark greeting card. Well, screw them. I like it. Art snobs should remember: Impressionism is a gateway drug. A few years of these guys and the next thing you know you’re curious about the Pre-Raphaelites. In the comic strip Doonsbury, prototype slacker Zonker Harris won $23 million in the lottery and spent $1 million on a Monet. He hung it above his refrigerator but subsequently sold it to purchase a royal title in the British aristocracy.

Claude Monet
Nympheas
Estimate: $30,000,000-45,000,000
Sold for $54,010,000

monet_waterliliesA smattering of contemporary pieces.

Keith Harring
Dog (Three Works)
Estimate: $500,000-700,000
Sold for $1,690,000 

Robert Indiana
Love
Estimate: $400,000-600,000
Sold for $538,000 

Barbara Kruger
Untitled (Provenance)
Estimate: $120,000-180,000
Sold for $394,000

harringYou’ve got to hand it to Jeff Koons. He has a talent for making wealthy people look foolish. Three Hoovers in Plexiglas with fluorescent lights. The lot description said this was executed in 1980-1986. This took six years?!

Jeff Koons
New Hoover Deluxe Shampoo Polishers
Estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000
Sold for $5,765,000

koons2This Rothko was described as being unusually bright. That’s putting it mildly! Rothko’s color palate trends towards deathly earth tones. This was owned by Bunny Melon. Pronounce her name with a clenched jaw. You can’t get Waspier than that.

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Yellow and Blue)
Estimate: $40,000,000-60,000,000
Sold for $46,450,000

rothkoI’m posting this Mondrian right after a Rothko intentionally. Rothko famously fumed that, “I am not a formalist. I have no interest in Mondrian. My paintings do not deal in space. Mondrian divides a canvas; I put thing on it.”

Piet Mondrian
Composition No. III with Red, Blue, Yellow and Black
Estimate: $15,000,000-25,000,000
Sold for: $50,565,000—a world record for a Mondrian

I love both the Rothko and the Mondrian. If I could, I’d buy both and hang them next to one anotheer. Heh.

Spooky and rich. This feeds both my desire to own an Impressionist masterpiece and my bottomless pit of Anglophilia.

Claude Monet
The Houses of Parliament at Sunset
Estimate: $35,000,000-45,000,000
Sold for $40,485,000

monet_westminsterThis Lichtenstein is thought to have missed the estimate because, believe it or not, it doesn’t contain one of his trademark comic book speech bubbles, which can add millions to a piece. WTF, art world?

Roy Lichtenstein
The Ring (Engagement)
Estimate on Request, but thought to be around $50,000,000
Sold for $41,690,000

lichtensteinAll of Gerhard Richter’s works are an insult to the brushes he loaded with paint and the canvases he dragged them across. A giant mess.

Gerhard Richter
Abstraktes Bild
Estimate on Request
Sold for $28,250,000

richterHere’s another in a series of nothings from Jean-Michael Basquiat. He threw his life away on heroin addiction. Stupid ass. A door painted on two sides.

Jean-Michael Basquiat
Untitled
Estimate: $3,000,000-6,000,000
Sold for $3,610,000

basquiat-door1This O’Keeffe is being offered in the May 20th American Art auction but included it here because I think it’s magnificent. O’Keeffe was angry that people interpreted her flower paintings as female genitalia. That was never her intent.

Georgia O’Keeffe
White Calla Lily
Estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000

I hadn’t intended to include this Rothko. I was afraid of Rothko-overkill and the photo doesn’t do it justice. This was hung in a side gallery. The lights were dim and there was a bench set in front of it. I sat down and realized there was also relaxing spa music playing at a barely-audible level. I got kind of lost in the canvas. I had an out-of-body experience, which is what I believed Rothko intended. It sold for an extraordinary amount of cash.

Mark Rothko
No. 10
Estimate on request
Sold for $81,925,000

rothko n0 10I showed this to a friend who’s an artist. He’s a master at watercolor. His comment was, “Nice flesh tones.” Well, that might be true but I couldn’t look at this hanging on my wall every day. Fun fact: Lucian Freud was the grandson of Sigmund Freud.

Lucian Freud
Benefits Supervisor Resting
Estimate: $30,000,000-50,000,000
Sold for $56,165,000

freudI like Anish Kapoor’s work. This concave disk is made of stainless steel and gold. It was mounted in a small room and smacked you as soon as you turned the corner. It’s all in the lighting, folks.

Anish Kapoor
Untitled
Estimate: $750,000-1,000,000
Sold for $905,000

kapoorHere’s what happens when you stand too close to it.

FullSizeRender(5)I wasn’t going include this Damian Hirst butterfly-wing piece because I’ve done a few of them in the past and I hate being redundant, but this is a particularly striking example so I couldn’t resist.

Damian Hirst
Freedom
Estimate: $500,000-700,000
Sold for $629,000

hirst1 hirst2Here’s a funny one. Oh, golly, you’re going to laugh and laugh! These are words painted on a wall. How big it is depends on you. The lot description reads:

“Any size as suits the needs and desires of the receiver.”

Which, I guess, means Weiner comes to your house and paints this on a wall. Now, THERE’S a piece that can be easily forged.

Lawrence Weiner
Balls of Wood Balls of Iron
Estimate: $80,000-120,000
Sold for $185,000

weiner2

This means when the auction is over and Christie’s paints that wall, they’re painting over a $185,000 “masterpiece.”

You are looking at $181,770,000 worth of art. I walked through this gallery with my backpack on. One false turn and you’d have read about me in the paper.

Mark Rothko
No. 36 (Black Stripe)
Estimate: $30,000,000-50,000,000
Sold for $40,485,000

Alberto Giacometti
L’homme au Doigt
Estimate on Request
Sold for $141,285,000

rothko_giacometti


corridor