Thursday, May 17, 2007
Warhol car crashes sales barrier
A new record was set for work by Andy Warhol when a painting of a car crash sold for $71.7m (£36.3m) in New York.
The 1963 painting, Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I), depicts an overturned car on fire.
It easily beat the previous auction record for work by the pop art pioneer, set last November when a painting of Chairman Mao sold for $17.4m (£8.8m).
The sale, at Christie's, was part of the second most-lucrative art auction ever, earning a total of $385m (£195m).
Final figures beat Christie's most optimistic expectations by some $80m, while only four of 78 works on offer failed to sell.
The market wasn't just hungry, it was ravenous
Christie's chairman, Christopher Burge
Records were broken by more than half of the 50 artists represented, including British artist Damien Hirst, Jasper Johns, Gerhard Richter and Donald Judd.
Another Warhol painting, Lemon Marilyn, fetched $28m (£14m).
Featuring the avant garde artist's seminal subject, actress Marilyn Monroe, it had remained in the same hands since the year of its creation.
"It was one of the most remarkable sales I've ever seen," said Christie's honorary chairman Christopher Burge, who also served as auctioneer.
"The market wasn't just hungry, it was ravenous."
However, none of the works on sale managed to match the $72.84 million fetched by a Mark Rothko at Sotheby's on Tuesday night, which shattered the record for post-war art at auction.
Prices have been pushed up by the expanding art market, with buyers from Asia, Russia and the Middle East mixing with traditional collectors.
According to Christie's, 18% of buyers at last night's sale were from Asia, nearly matching the 19% who hailed from Europe.
"This boom has been going on for three or four years and its getting stronger and stronger," says Daniel Morris of Corfield Morris - an independent company advising art and antique collectors.
"These things are now becoming status symbols for the uber-wealthy.
"They used to have other assets - race horses or Porsches - but now you have to have a Damien Hirst on the wall."
Individual buyers make up a large part of the market, with hedge fund billionaire Steven A Cohen and Las Vegas magnate Steve Wynn - who accidentally put his elbow through a Picasso last year - among the leading clients.
With records continuing to be broken, collectors are feeling encouraged to put works up for sale, which in turn drives prices higher.
But, warned Christie's, not every piece is guaranteed to break records.
"The Lemon Marilyn, which sold for $28m, was from the first series of Marilyn Monroe pictures Andy Warhol did, " said a Christie's spokesperson. "That fact, plus the knowledge that it had a single owner and was bought directly from Warhol's first New York one-man show for $250 - all made it more desirable."
"There are individual scenarios for each individual piece of art."
RECENT RECORDS IN MODERN ART
Artist Title Price achieved Previous record
Mark Rothko White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) £36.8m £11.3m
Andy Warhol Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) £36.3m £8.8m
Francis Bacon Innocent X £26.5m £14m
Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled £7.4m £2.8m
Damien Hirst Lullaby Water £3.7m £1.7m
Willem de Kooning Untitled XXV £13.6m £10.5m