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Contemporary art auction nets 143 mn dollars

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, May 10: Works by Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning each sold for more than 10 million dollars at Christie's, signaling a healthy, if not runaway, market for post-war and contemporary art.

Damien Hirst broke his own record with a sheep-in-formaldehyde sculpture in the monumental auction which placed 91 lots on the block, including a group of 26 works by Donald Judd. Only eight failed to sell.

The auction house took in 143,187,200 dollars including commissions, its second-highest total for a contemporary art auction and right in the middle of its 130 million dollars to 160 million dollars pre-sale estimate.

New records were set for 12 of the 47 artists whose works were on offer, including David Hockney, Brice Marden and Hirst.

Twenty-five Judd sculptures sold for a total of 24.5 million dollars or more than 10 per cent above Christie's high estimate for the group. Prices ranged from 72,000 dollars to 2.7 million dollars.

Throughout the evening bidding was brisk, which auctioneer Christopher Burge said characterised both the sale itself and the overall market for contemporary art.

''It was a very strong result,'' Burge said. ''It wasn't a crazy result.'' He did note a few disappointments, however, including major works by Francis Bacon and David Smith. A Smith sculpture broke the record for any post-war art at auction last fall.

The sale's top lot was Warhol's ''Small Torn Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot)'' from 1962 which sold for nearly 11.8 million dollars -- the highest price paid for one of the artist's seminal soup can works. Warhols did well throughout the sale, with perhaps the biggest surprise being the 5.2 million dollars that an unidentified American collector paid for ''S&H Green Stamps (64 S&H Green Stamps)'' -- four times its pre-sale estimate.

An untitled 1961 de Kooning went for 10.1 million dollars while his ''Two Women (Study for Clamdigger)'' far exceeded expectations, fetching 5.7 million dollars.

An American art dealer paid 3.4 million dollars for ''Away From the Flock Divided,'' one of Hirst's infamous sculptures of an animal -- this one a sheep -- split and preserved in formaldehyde. It was a record for a work by Hirst, at the helm of the young British artists movement whose works have often generated controversy.

The spring auctions wrap up on Wednesday with Sotheby's post-war and contemporary art sale.


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