November 11, 2010 / 5:30 AM / 9 years ago

NY art auctions end with Lichtenstein record

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York’s fall art auctions wrapped up on Wednesday with Christie’s contemporary and post-war works achieving the highest one-night total in two weeks of sales, led by a record-smashing Roy Lichtenstein that fetched $42.6 million.

The auction, dominated by U.S. buying, was the season’s biggest for Christie’s and rival Sotheby’s, taking in a total of $272,873,000 including commissions, beating the low estimate for the sale.

An astonishing 93 percent of the 75 lots on offer at the unusually large sale, which was heavy with estates, found buyers. Four works sold for more than $12 million, and 11 artists set new records.

It was a fitting end to a series of impressive results over the two weeks at the two powerhouses, as well as distant-third Phillips de Pury, which together moved more than $1 billion worth of Impressionist, modern and post-war art during a period of continued economic uncertainty.

“The art market has in fact come back with real strength,” said Amy Cappellazzo, Christie’s co-head of contemporary and post-war art.

“There was quite a lot of pent-up demand,” she said, since the 2008 financial crisis cut deep into the art market and sellers held back for a few seasons.

“But buyers felt very confident,” Cappellazzo said, adding that “art has held up extremely well as an asset class against other assets.”

American buyers in particular, she said, had “returned with great exuberance this season.”

Lichtenstein’s “Ohhh...Alright,” being sold by Las Vegas casino and hotel magnate Steve Wynn, was the runaway highlight, fetching $42,642,500 and more than doubling the pop artist’s record of $16,256,000.

But one of the sale’s star lots, Warhol’s “Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable)” sharply disappointed when it managed only $23,882,500, or less than half the high estimate.

Christie’s officials, noting an usually large range of Warhols on offer this week, pointed out that buyers had spent heavily on other Warhols. On Monday Phillips sold a multi-image depiction of Elizabeth Taylor for an astounding $63.4 million.

Other highlights on Wednesday included Jeff Koons’ “Balloon Flower (Blue),” which graced the entrance of Christie’s Rockefeller Center U.S. headquarters and sold for $16,882,500.

Artists whose work set records on Wednesday included Alexander Calder, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Mark Tansey.

Editing by Eric Beech

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