Forty-two years after his death, Marc Rothko sets records at a Christie’s auction, which, again, has its own reasons to walk down the pages of history. A brilliant camaraderie of three colors, “Orange, Red, Yellow”- Rothko’s timeless creation from 1961, shattered all records for post-war and contemporary art by fetching $87 million. Overflowing with dealers and collectors, the auction room at Christie’s represented a happy and busy place as the gale banged on Barnett New man, Gergard Richter, Alexander Calder and Yves Clain to record-eclipsing quotes. The results had Christie’s authorities smiling all the way. The sale’s total takings-$388,488,000, according to the house sources, are the highest ever fetched at a contemporary art auction since 2007. The tally exceeded the $236-329 million pre-sale estimate by several millions. The current auctions sales, though, are yet to surpass the house’s all-time high evening tally for various-owner sales which, powered by modern art and impressionist pieces, fetched $491 million.
The first in the series of three back to back auctions, the evening saw collectors and enthusiasts mouthing new prices every two minutes for the 40-lot consignment from the estate of the late Pennsylvania philanthropist and art collector David Pincus. Thirteen records were set, with forty out of the fifty-six lots making over a million dollars. While nine floated across the ten million dollar mark in effortless disposition, eighteen had to stay content with five million dollars and over. Three, however, found no takers.
As records shattered and bids flew left, right and center, the night marked star auctioneer Christopher Burge’s last appearance before an auction audience. The hall was packed with an unusually high array of abstract expressionist paintings. David Pincus collection includes sculptures and paintings by De Cooning, Pollock, Rothko and Newman.
While the Rothko piece walked away with the biggest honor, the spot light of the grand evening remained on a thirteen lot trove from David Pincus. What was expected to sell for $89.8-125.9 million wound up making a whopping $174.9 million instead.
“Orange Red and Yellow”, it goes without saying, led the pack and sent people into a bidding frenzy. From $24 million, it escalated price charts at one million dollar increments. Rothko’s three color masterpiece outdid his previous record for “Rockefeller Rothko” by $14,160000(approx).
“It has superb quality if that’s your brand of trophy picture. Put in the company of other $50-million-plus pictures and it belongs there”, said Chicago dealer Paul Gray about the record smashing Rothko. The piece was bought by David Pincus in London way back in 1967, three years after it opened there in a solo exhibition.
Rothko’s record comes a week after “The Scream” by Edward Munch became the most expensive artwork sold at an auction, ever. Depicting man’s plight in contemporary world, the Scream went under the hammer at Sotheby’s on May this year. It bagged $120 million, setting record for the biggest sum fetched by a piece of art at auction.
The Rothko creation, in the meantime, knocked out Francis Bacon's “Triptych” as the priciest postwar artwork in history. With two records smashed and two created in the span of a month, art enthusiasts, it seems, are all poised for a great year ahead.