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November 14, 2012

Sotheby’s Hits Highest Auction Total in its History at $375m

By Spear's

Tonight’s auction of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s totaled $375,149,000, the best auction result in any category in the Company’s history

NEW YORK, 13 November 2012: Tonight’s auction of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s totaled $375,149,000, the best auction result in any category in the Company’s history (est. $277/374 million). The sale was 84% sold-by-lot and was led by Mark Rothko’s No.1 (Royal Red and Blue), which sold for $75,122,500 (est. $35/50 million) (pictured left). Artist records were set for Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, and Wade Guyton, as well as for a work-on-paper by Andy Warhol and a painting by Takashi Murakami.

“This has been an extraordinary year for Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s,” commented Tobias Meyer, Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s. “Tonight’s record results bring our 2012 total to well over $1 billion, and we still have tomorrow’s Day auction, as well as our upcoming sale in Paris. The Rothko was the undisputed highlight of the evening, surpassing the Rockefeller Rothko to become the second highest price ever achieved for the artist at auction. The wonderful consignment from the Collection of Sidney and Dorothy Kohl brought more than $100 million, led by the Jackson Pollock, which sold for $40.4 million, well above expectations. If you are looking for evidence that today’s market is alive and well, look no further.”

Read more: Where auction houses lead, the economy often follows

Alexander Rotter, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art department in New York, noted: “We were thrilled to achieve great results on behalf of our consignors tonight, in an auction that showed just how vibrant the market is. We were especially encouraged by the strong depth of bidding from around the world on works

like the Rothko, Bacon and many more. In addition to the great prices achieved for paintings by the Abstract Expressionists, Warhol was the other star of the night. His works together achieved $54 million, well over their $35 million low estimate, and included the incredibly important Suicide that brought a price nearly three times the previous auction record for a work on paper by the artist.”

Tonight’s sale was led by the seminal Rothko masterpiece No.1 (Royal Red and Blue) from 1954, which sold for $75,122,500 after spirited competition from five bidders. The majestic canvas was one of eight works hand- selected by Rothko for his landmark solo show of the same year at the Art Institute of Chicago. Measuring 1133⁄4 x 671⁄2 in (288.9 x 171.5 cm), No.1 (Royal Red and Blue) has remained in the same collection for 30 years.

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Other Abstract Expressionist highlights came from A Distinguished Private American Collection which totaled $101,348,000 and was highlighted by Jackson Pollock’s Number 4, 1951 which sold for $40,402,500, well over the $25/35 million estimate to set a new auction record for the artist. Other highlights from the collection included Willem de Kooning’s Abstraction from circa 1949, which sold for $19,682,500 (est. $15/20 million) as well as paintings by Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, Arshile Gorky which all set new artist records.

A further highlight of the sale was one of the most important versions of Francis Bacon’s iconic Pope Paintings ever to have appeared at auction, Untitled (Pope) that sold for $29,762,500 – over the high estimate and many multiples of the £65,000 ($105,475) it fetched when it last appeared at auction at Sotheby’s London in 1975 (est. $18/25 million). Also by Bacon was the 1967 portrait Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne from the Estate of George Embiricos that sold for $9,322,500.

The Andy Warhol works in the sale achieved a combined total of $54 million, well over the $35.2/43.9 million estimate and were led by led by Green Disaster (Green Disaster Twice), one of the very first of the artist’s “car crash” paintings, which sold for $15,202,500 (est. in excess of $12 million).

Read more: Why did Munch’s Scream sell for $120 million in 2012?

Works-on-paper by the artist were particularly successful with the group of three totaling $32.2 million, above a high estimate of $21 million with multiple bidders on all three. They were led by Suicide from 1964 which nearly trebled the previous medium record to sell for $16,322,500 – several times the previous auction price of $132,000 set at Sotheby’s NY in November 1992.

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