Newspaper article International New York Times

Auction Houses See High Prices for Contemporary Art ; Recent Sales Show Strong Demand for Big Names and Young Artists

Newspaper article International New York Times

Auction Houses See High Prices for Contemporary Art ; Recent Sales Show Strong Demand for Big Names and Young Artists

Article excerpt

Sotheby's and Christie's reported strong demand for works by Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly and some young artists.

Last week Sotheby's and Christie's proved that Impressionist and modern art hasn't lost its luster, with a still life by Juan Gris fetching $56.7 million and a dreamy cityscape by Pissarro bringing $32 million.

Now the auction houses here are focusing on contemporary art with back-to-back sales of paintings, sculptures and drawings by blue- chip names as well as some examples from today's young rising stars. While Sotheby's sale on Wednesday night produced no head-spinning blockbusters that could compare to the Christie's sale of a Francis Bacon triptych, "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," to Elaine Wynn, the Las Vegas casino owner, for $142.4 million in November, the auction house nevertheless managed to score some impressive results, proving that there is still a huge amount of spending money for the superrich here.

The evening sale brought in $144.5 million, against estimates of $112.5 million to $153.1 million, with bidders from 40 countries, according to Sotheby's officials. Of the 57 works on offer only 10 failed to sell.

It was a big night for Gerhard Richter, whose prices have been strong for the last few years since a retrospective of the 82-year- old artist's work traveled to London, Berlin and Paris. Sotheby's star work had once been in the artist's personal collection for over 15 years: "Wand," or "Wall" in German, a nearly 8-foot square canvas of vertical bands of reds from 1994 that was estimated to sell for more than $25 million. Before the sale, dealers said they believed the painting was being sold by Pierre Chen, a Taiwanese businessman and collector. Two telephone bidders pursued the work, which ended up selling for $28.6 million.

A smaller, abstract painting by Mr. Richter, from 1997, whose richly layered surface had a dreamy, watery quality to it also topped expectations, making $6.5 million, above its high estimate of $4.9 million.

(Final prices include the buyer's premium: 25 percent of the first $100,000; 20 percent from $100,000 to $2 million; and 12 percent of the rest. …

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