Collectors Refreshed by Pop at Sothebys


Sotheby’s put the fizz back into its evening sale by serving up old style coca-cola in glass bottles just before its evening contemporary sale, in homage to its cover lot, a 1962 painting of a coca-cola bottle. For the second night running Warhol captivated a who’s who art world audience. Warhol’s iconic Coca-Cola (4) (Large Coca-Cola) painting had Tobias Meyer hanging over his rostrum fielding an exciting battle between at least eight bidders.

Some dealers had speculated that Coca-Cola would do better in light of Monday night’s performance of Warhol’s Men in her Life, which sold at Phillips for $63 million. The iconic coke bottle did not disappoint; it sold to an unidentified phone bidder for $35.3 million, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of $20–25 million.

This was Pop art’s night on the town. Roy Lichtenstein’s Ice Cream Soda (1962), acquired from Leo Castelli, and owned by the family of Myron Orlofsky for decades, was hammered down for $12.5 against a presale estimate of $12–18 million. The artist’s Still Life with Lobster (1972) sold to a phone bidder for $5.25 million, against a pre-sale estimate of $5–7 million.

Abstract Expressionist would not just ride Pop’s coattails. A 1955 Rothko, estimated at $20–30 million, sold on the phone to an Asian collector for $22 million. A sublime and bold oil on paper, Montauk III (1969) by de Kooning, which merges abstraction and figuration, sold in the room for $9.9 million, surpassing its $5-7 million estimate. After the sale, veteran collector and dealer Robert Munuchin summed, “The results were very solid-not an extreme sale but very healthy.” Other dealers concurred, “Everything was very strong,” said New York-based advisor Connie Rogers.

The powerful Francis Bacon, estimated at $7–10 million, was a gift from the artist to his physician, Dr. Paul Brass, who was the painting’s consignor. The large 1985 portrait sold for $14 million. Two Richters were highly sought after: Matrosen (Sailors) (1966) was put up by the Weserburg Museum fur modern Kunst, Bremen and carried a presale estimate of $6-8 million; it was chased by several bidders and sold for $13 million. Another
Richter, a large colorful, drippy abstract, sold for $11 million.

Then there was the comeback story, for an artist whose prices have recently caused less excitement—the pristine Larry Rivers canvas, French Money III (1962), carried a conservative estimate of $300-400,000.
No fewer than eight bidders chased the lot, which was eventually hammered down for $1.1, beating the artist’s previous record of $467,500.

Great works of the last 10 years showed strong prices: an Urs Fisher made $1.82 million; a Julie Mehretu made $2.3; and a Cady Noland made $1.7 million. Louise Bourgeois’ beloved Spider III made $3.5 million with five bidders driving up the price from its pre sale estimate of $600–800,000.

90% of the lots sold earning Sotheby’s a total of $222,454,500. Speaking after the sale, Tobias Meyer attributed the success of the contemporary sale to its great anchor: “Andy has become an icon of global desire, the works are so great, a global community is chasing them.” He continued, “Warhol has entered the pantheon of Modigliani and Monet.” And collectors seek out true gems. Meyer concluded, “It’s a global 20th century market, it’s an Icon market—like Matisse, Cezanne, audiences want fantastic.” Next up: Christies serves Warhol’s Campbell Soup.