A NUDE by Roy Lichtenstein led Christie’s relay-style auction that played out virtually Friday in four cities around the globe.
The live-streamed event — which had been postponed from May due to the pandemic — produced $421 million in sales over four hours, exceeding its low estimate. Like Sotheby’s and Phillips before it, Christie’s pivoted from a live to virtual auction, connecting sales rooms in Hong Kong, Paris, London, and New York digitally and drawing more than 20,000 viewers.
“It worked,” said Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of the newly formed 20/21 department. “The market was ready for a new way of thinking about collecting art.”
The sellers included billionaire Lorenzo Fertitta, according to people familiar with the matter. Fertitta parted with two works, including the Lichtenstein, the people said, asking not to be identified because the sellers weren’t made public.
Christie’s declined to comment, as did art dealer Brett Gorvy, who represented the anonymous consignor. Fertitta, chairman of Fertitta Capital, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Lichtenstein’s Nude with Joyous Painting fetched $46.2 million, surpassing its presale target of $30 million. A diptych by Joan Mitchell, La Grande Vallee VII, went for $14.5 million, within the estimated range. It was also consigned by Fertitta, according to the people. Both paintings were sold in Hong Kong.
Among the seven record sales Friday was a painting by Brice Marden, Complements, that once belonged to Donald Marron, the former chairman of Lightyear Capital who died in December. It sold for $30.9 million, within the estimated presale range. The results include fees charged by Christie’s, while estimates don’t.
Four Pinball Machines by Wayne Thiebaud, a California artist who turns 100 years old this year, fetched $19.1 million. It last appeared at auction in 1981, selling for $143,000 to Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren, according to the provenance provided by Christie’s. In 1982 Bren sold the work to San Francisco investment manager Ken Siebel and his wife Judy, the parents-in-law of California Governor Gavin Newsom.
While many works hammered below their estimated targets, few failed to find buyers. Among those that didn’t sell was an abstract canvas by Zao Wou-Ki, which had been estimated at about $10 million.
“We saw a flight to safety, and even further, very cautious bidding,” said New York art dealer Andrew Terner. “Missing was the magic of a live sales room. It really may have helped.” — Bloomberg