The auction house Christie’s set a new record on 13 May by attaining 745 million dollars (543 million euros) in a single auction session for contemporary and post-war art, superseding the previous record by more than 50 million dollars, achieved in a similar bid last year. Those responsible for this magic night at the prestigious Londoner auction house were Alexander Calder, Joan Mitchell, Joseph Cornell and Barnett Newman, whose works achieved record sums at the event taking place at the Rockefeller Center in New York.
It is worth taking a few moments to get to know the pieces of art that were sold during the auction on this ‘magic Tuesday’. The painting ‘Black fire I’ by Barnett Newman was auctioned off for a staggering 84 million dollars. The mobile ‘Flying Fish’ by Alexander Calder went for just below 26 million dollars. As Warhol will always be Warhol, it comes as no surprise that two of his pieces also made a big impact. First was a small image of the icon Marilyn Monroe, which was auctioned for 41 million dollars, while ‘Race riot’, a screen print about the disturbances that took place in Birmingham (Alabama) in 1963, fell under the hammer for 63 million dollars. Another iconic artists for Christie’s is Francis Bacon (thanks to last November’s sale of ‘Three studies of Lucian Freud’ for 142 million dollars, the most expensive painting ever to be auctioned), and another painting of his ‘three studies for a portrait of John Edwards’ (1984), which on this occasion sold for 80 million dollars. The line up of the evening was completed, how could it be different, by another first class artist, Mark Rothko. His painting ‘untitled’ from 1952 achieved an auction prize of 66 million dollars. On the other hand, Jackson Pollock, another master of abstract expressionism, was less fortunate, as his painting ‘Number 5, 1951 (Elegant lady)’ was auctioned off for “only” 11 million dollars. A tiny disappointment on such a splendid New York night for Christie’s.