Basquiat and Warhol Fail Christie's
Christie's tried in New York with a 1983 piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat and didn't succeed. The auction house may have been too aggressive in estimating the 16-foot piece at $9 million. That's what's tough about the art market right now. There are signs of recovery, and it can be tempting to push for higher prices. Unfortunately, it's easy to get a bit excited. The painting had the highest estimate at the auction. The piece with the second highest presale estimate, a piece by Andy Warhol, met a similar fate.
The Basquiat piece, "Brother Sausage," was offered anonymously by a buyer later revealed by Bloomberg News to be Peter Brant, an art collector based in Connecticut. The piece may be a casualty of his divorce from model Stephanie Seymour. Well, it won't be financing post-marital discord and could remain a contested asset for a while.
Yet, some works beat the odds in an auction that raked in $74.2 million, within the presale range of $61.5 million to $88 million. Nonetheless, this was the lowest result we've seen from a Christie's New York contemporary art effort since May 2003 and down 81 percent from the top of the market two and a half years ago.
While artists and collectors are eager for a recovery, buyers still aren't ready to overpay, with Lucy Mitchell-Innes, art dealer and president of the Art Dealers Association of America, observing to Bloomberg News, "There is more interest in buying, but it is more disciplined."
Forty-six lots were offered, and 39 found buyers. Peter Doig surprised the art community by hitting $10.2 million, after four bidders easily drove it past the high estimate of $6 million. The piece went to the seller for a mere $11,000 the year it was painted. A gray painting by Jasper Johns, "Dancers on a Plane," beat its presale high estimate of $2 million before settling at more than twice that amount ($4.3 million), the prize going to an anonymous bidder who played by phone.
A wooden sculpture by Jeff Koons reached the high end of its $4 million to $6 million range with a gavel price of $5.7 million, sold by art publisher Benedikt Taschen. He bought it at a Christie's auction in London in 2000 for only $999,322.
Though one Warhol piece failed, a portrait of Michael Jackson that had a top-end estimate sold for $812,500 -- nearly tripling the price of a comparable piece last May (which means the spring buyer got a hell of a deal).