Robert Buford with Kenneth Noland’s (1924-2010), Untitled, 1958-1959. Acrylic on canvas. 42 x 42 in (106.6 x 106.6 cm). Photo Peter Hoffman. Artwork © Estate of Kenneth NolandVAGA at ARS,

I bought it at Christie’s

Chicago collector Robert Buford tells the story of how he almost didn’t get the chance to set a new auction record for a work by for Kenneth Noland

‘I just love this picture. I first saw it on the back of a mini-catalogue. The description said it had belonged to the singer Andy Williams. That was the start of it — because who’s not an Andy Williams fan? And I was thrilled by the blue and the orange together. My favourite colour is blue.

‘That night there was a party at my place. I was talking with an artist friend about the Noland and he said, “If you can get it within estimate, you’ll have made a great buy.” Cut to the next day, which was the day of the auction, and I am catching a flight to South Carolina. While I’m standing in line waiting to board the plane, I get a call from Christie’s to say that telephone bidding is about to start.

Kenneth Noland (1924-2010), Untitled, 1958-1959. 42 x 42 in (106.6 x 106.6 cm). Sold on 16 May 2013 at Christie’s in New York. © Estate of Kenneth NolandVAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019

Kenneth Noland (1924-2010), Untitled, 1958-1959. 42 x 42 in (106.6 x 106.6 cm). Sold on 16 May 2013 at Christie’s in New York. © Estate of Kenneth Noland/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019

‘Next thing, I am seated on the plane, the Noland is up, and the crew are telling us to turn off our cellphones. So I’m whispering into my phone, trying to hide from the stewardess who is coming my way. She turns around and goes in the other direction, and at this point the bids go beyond the estimate, heading for double.

‘The stewardess comes back but passes me by, so it looks like I have maybe another 30 or 40 seconds. We’re up to three, four times the estimate, and I’m going crazy. A friend sitting next to me asks, “What are you doing?” I say, “I really want this picture!”

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‘Now there are only two people on the planet who can have it: me, and one other. Suddenly I hear the gavel go down — bang! It’s over. Someone on the line is congratulating me, but all I can say is: “I’ve got to go.” As we take off, I’m the proud owner of a painting that has set a new record for Noland.’