Following the record-breaking $106 million Picasso sale we reported on last week, another world record has been set with the sale of late author Michael Crichton's seminal Jasper Johns Flag painting last night for $28.6 million. Both works were sold by Christie's in New York, fulfilling our prediction in The Classicist last month that the auction house's May art sales would bring in "megabucks". The 1966 flag painting, which had been estimated at up to $15 million, was sold to to New York art adviser Michael Altman before a crowd of VIPs and art collectors including hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen, Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz, billionaire Eli Broad, author Salman Rushdie and designer Marc Jacobs. The sale's other big cash cow was Andy Warhol, whose 1965 Elizabeth Taylor diptych, "Silver Liz," sold for $18.3 million to New York art dealer Dominique Levy. The Crichton estate's 31 pieces alone sold for $93.3 million, against a $69.6 million high estimate. The sale broke at least five world records for artists including Johns, as predicted by Luxist's Tom Johansmeyer.
All in all Christie's auctioned $232 million of post-war and contemporary art on Tuesday, with around 74% of the offerings going to American buyers. "Within five minutes of opening the rooms for the stunning pre-sale exhibition of the Crichton Collection, we were packed," said Brett Gorvy, International Co-Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie's. "There was a sense of anticipation. The sale [Tuesday] reaffirms the continued confidence in the art market." Amy Cappellazzo, Christie's International Co-Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, notes that "This is the most significant Post-War & Contemporary Art collection ever sold at auction. It was a quintessential American sale. We were delighted with the results across the board and also to see the works by Warhol sell well. Warhol is a bellwether for the market. It sends a strong signal across the board."
Gallery: Megabucks May 2010 Art Auctions