Bacon helps Sotheby's bring in highest sale ever

Sheer 'wall power' of Rothko, Pollock Warhol and Bacon sees Sotheby's take $375,205,000 - breaking all records
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Untitled (Pope)  (1954) by Francis Bacon sold for  $29.8m earlier this week
Untitled (Pope) (1954) by Francis Bacon sold for $29.8m earlier this week

Early reports of a “crack in the art market” this season were proved premature a couple of nights ago, when Sotheby's achieved the best auction result in any category in the company's 268-year history. Its Contemporary Art sale on November 13 brought in $375,205,000 (£236,800,000).

"If you want to talk about the market being happy, healthy and well, here it is," Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art, Tobias Meyer, told the BBC.  "That's probably about as good as it gets."

The high numbers were spurred on by a fine selection of works, many of which had strong visual and social prowess, or, as the New York Times put it, 'wall power'. Foremost among these works was Mark Rothko’s 1954 painting No.1 (Royal Red and Blue), which sold for $75,122,500; over twice its low estimate of $35m, and well above its high estimate of $50m.

 

Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art, Tobias Meyer, led the bidding at the contemporary art evening auction
Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art, Tobias Meyer, led the bidding at the contemporary art evening auction
 

Four competing bidders pushed Bacon’s Untitled (Pope) (1954) past its upper estimate of $25m to $26.5m, to $29.8m. Jackson Pollock's 1951 work, Number 4, also got the paddles raised, selling for $40.4m, well above the artist's auction record of $23m.

Warhol had a good night, with a record set for a work on paper by the artist; the Manhattan dealer  Philippe Ségalot paid $16.3m for Suicide, a screen print featuring an image of a man jumping to his death from a tower block.

Many present on Tuesday night were amazed by the strong showing. Ségalot said, “It was surprising,” before offering some explanation: “Sotheby’s had works that were fresh to the market and they put them in the beginning of the sale. That set the tone for the rest of the evening.” And what an evening it was.

 

Mark Rothko’s 1954 painting No.1 (Royal Red and Blue) sold for $75,122,500
Mark Rothko’s 1954 painting No.1 (Royal Red and Blue) sold for $75,122,500


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