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Warhol, Koons part of $412 million sale at Christie's

Andy's Warhol's 3D 'Statue of Liberty,' which is signed ‘Andy Warhol’ (on the turning edge), is expected to sell for around $35 million at a Post-War & Contemporary Art sale Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, at Christie's auction house in New York. Credit: Christie's

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By Bloomberg News
Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 11:36 a.m.
 

On Wednesday, Christie's held its largest-ever postwar and contemporary sale, setting records for eight artists including Franz Kline, Jeff Koons, Donald Judd and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The $412.3 million tally last night in New York surpassed the high estimate of $411.8 million. Just six of 73 lots failed to find buyers. Presale estimates don't include the buyer's premium, while the sale total does.

“It's a perfect storm of having good quality and fresh material,” said Todd Levin, director of Levin Art Group in New York. “People seem comfortable taking excess capital and putting it into art.”

At the auction, Andy Warhol's 1962 “Statue of Liberty” was the top lot, selling for $43.8 million. It had belonged to German entrepreneur Erich Marx, whose art collection became the core of the Hamburger Bahnhof contemporary-art museum in Berlin.

It was later acquired by the Daros Collection in Zurich, which sold it privately to the current undisclosed consignor, according to Brett Gorvy, chairman and international head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie's.

Another Warhol, a 1966 portrait of leather-clad Marlon Brando on a motorcycle, went for $23.7 million. The work was consigned by Donald L. Bryant, a former trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, who bought it for $5 million at Christie's in 2003.

“I was prepared to go to $40 million,” said art dealer David Nahmad, the patriarch of the family, who won the bidding. “For me, it was the best buy of the sale.”

An untitled 1981 Basquiat painting fetched $26.4 million, exceeding his previous record of $20.1 million set by Christie's in London in June.

Depicting a skeletal figure with a halo above his head and fish in his hand, the work was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in the early 1990s and at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel in 2010.

Koons's record was for the sculpture “Tulips” (1995-2004). At $33.7 million, it was the second-priciest work for a living artist. It smashed his previous record of $25.8 million, set for a “Balloon flower — Magenta” sculpture in London in 2008.

“These artists have achieved a level of recognition globally,” said Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's Europe, Middle East and Russia. “No one questions their quality. The only question is how much you have to pay to acquire one.”

The record Kline sold for $40.4 million, quadrupling his previous auction record of $9.3 million, achieved Tuesday at Sotheby's. The untitled work, more than 6 feet high and 9 feet wide, depicts black brush strokes colliding on a white background.

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