Record-breaking de Kooning leads Post-War & Contemporary Sale in New York

Five artist’s records set as Evening Sale realises more than $276.9 million

Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XXV  led the The Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale  in New York, eclipsing the previous world auction record for the artist by selling for $66,237,500 / £53,147,035. The sale, which was 89 per cent sold by lot and 94 per cent by value, realised a total of $276,972,500 / £221,933,093 (including buyer’s premium).

‘The standout moment of the night was the two-way bidding war that took place for de Kooning’s momentous canvas,’ remarked Sara Friedlander, Head of Department, Post-War and Contemporary Art in New York. ‘This painting redefined the market when it last sold at Christie’s New York for $27.1million exactly 10 years ago to the date. Tonight, Untitled XXV made history again. The success of this work is a benchmark for the current marketplace, which is exceedingly receptive to works of the highest quality across a range of prices.’

Other leading works on the night included Jean Dubuffet’s Les Grande Artères, painted in 1961, which realised $23,767,500 (estimate: $15-20 million), closely followed by Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (809-2), from the collection of Eric Clapton, which sold for $22,087,500 / £17,698,317. Three works sold for $20 million and above, and 14 realised in excess of $5 million.

Video: Jean Dubuffet’s Les Grande Artères realized $23,767,500

After paying tribute to the magnificent de Kooning, a work last sold at Christie’s in 2006 when it became the most expensive Post-War and Contemporary work of art in history, Brett Gorvy, Christie’s Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, turned his attention to Jean Dubuffet. ‘As a department, he is one of our favourite artists,’ he said at the post-sale press conference. ‘We have been saying for a long time that he should be acclaimed as one of the most important artists of the 20th century.’

Four world auction records for artists were set on the night, including the seminal de Kooning work from 1977. The trend was set early with the first lot of the sale, Obama ’08 by Jonathan Horowitz, which set a new world auction record for the artist by selling for $131,250 (estimate: $100,000-150,000). Other all-time auction highs were established for John Currin, whose Nice ’n Easy (1999) sold for $12,007,500, and Giuseppe Gallo, whose Untitled (2011) obliterated his previous auction record of $28,733 before realising $367,500. 

Registered bidders in the sale came from 41 different countries, the highest number Lead Auctioneer and Global President of Christie’s Jussi Pylkkänen could recall.

The 20th Century Week auctions  continue on Wednesday with the Morning and Afternoon Sales of Post-War and Contemporary Art, and the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, which features the the outstanding Meule  by Claude Monet (1891) and a superb collection of works by Pablo Picasso.