Warhol and Judd Soar in $143 Million Art Sale
By CAROL VOGEL
Published: May 10, 2006
[...] the most memorable part of the evening came when Minimalism went mainstream.
The evening set records for 12 artists ranging from David Hockney and Damien Hirst to Richard Prince and Mike Kelley in a sale that totaled $143.1 million, in the middle of its estimate, $113.1 million to $160.2 million. Of the 91 works, only 8 failed to sell.
The sale was unusually long because it included 26 works by Donald Judd that the Minimalist sculptor's foundation was selling to create an endowment to support its permanent installations in New York and Texas. Primarily late works from the 1980's and early 90's, they ranged in estimate from $30,000 to $40,000 (for a small wood block from the 1960's) to $1.5 million to $2 million (for a 1993 sculpture of stacked plywood). Before the sale, some experts feared the group might be too much of a good thing. But that was not the case: all but one of the works sold, for a total of $24.4. million.
Obtaining the foundation's property for auction was highly competitive; experts said Christie's had given the foundation a guarantee — an undisclosed minimum sum promised to a seller regardless of the outcome of the sale — of more than $20 million. The risk paid off for Christie's, showing there was more depth in this part of the market than anyone had imagined.
Among the Judd works, the biggest draw was "Untitled, 1993 (93-1 Ballantine)," a monumental wall piece made of plywood and plexiglass, which was expected to fetch $2 million to $3 million and sold to a telephone bidder for $2.7 million. Four bidders wanted "Untitled 1970 (DSS No. 230) (70-13 Bernstein)," a horizontal aluminum sculpture that had been on extended loan to Dia:Beacon in upstate New York. It sold for $2 million after a high estimate of $1.2 million. [read on...]
Donald Judd, Untitled (91-7 Ballantine), 1991, sold for $284,800, at Christie's New York, May 9, 2006
more from Artnet, May 10, 2006:
$143 MILLION AT CHRISTIE'S CONTEMPORARY
Tulipmania! That one-word definition of irrational market exuberance came to mind during Christie's New York sale of post-war and contemporary art on the evening of May 9, 2006, as lot 25 came to the block. A galvanized metal box, roughly two feet square and six inches deep, covered with a blue plastic lid -- an untitled Donald Judd sculpture from 1985 -- the work carried a presale estimate of $300,000-$400,000, and followed the sale of two dozen similar boxes for similarly high prices. $300,000 for a shallow metal box? The mind reeled. But then auctioneer Christopher Burge knocked it down to a phone bidder for $450,000 ($531,200 with the auction-house premium), and the art world snapped back into focus.
Christie's unusually long sale of 91 lots -- 60 lots is a more typical number these days -- totaled $143,187,200, with 83 of 91 items finding buyers, or 88 percent. The length of the sale was due to the inclusion of 26 lots from the Donald Judd Foundation, which sold for a total of $24,468,800, with only one work failing to sell. The funds are earmarked to set up a new endowment for the foundation, which maintains Judd's home and studio building in SoHo and 16 more buildings, all installed with Judd works, in Marfa, Texas.
The high prices can be attributed to pent-up demand, as the foundation stopped supplying works to galleries -- Judd had showed with PaceWildenstein -- around six years ago. What's more, no sales tax is due on the Judd works, since they are sold by a tax-exempt organization. It should also be noted that the foundation did not, in all likelihood, have to pay a commission to Christie’s for conducting the sale (the auction house earned its cut from the buyer's premium of 20 percent on the first $100,000 of sales prices and 12 percent on the remainder).
The Judd sale had its own lavishly illustrated, library-worthy catalogue, complete with a 1971 interview with the artist by John Coplans, essays by Rudi Fuchs and Frances Colpitt, and texts by Judd himself and his son, Flavin Judd. The plan to auction works from the foundation holdings prompted objections by some observers, who claimed that a better route would have been to place works carefully with select museums. But museums are notoriously slow to act, and understandably reluctant to pay top price.
Indeed, lot 6, a 1993 "stack" of six units in Douglas Fir plywood and colored Plexiglas, which was exhibited in the Judd retrospective at the Tate in 2004 -- actually, only five of the six units were installed at the museum, due to space limitations -- could have been purchased by a museum at the time for perhaps $500,000, according to an insider. There were no takers. Last night, the sculpture sold to a phone bidder for $2,704,000 (est. $2,000,000 - $3,000,000).
Dealers and collectors sitting in the crowded auction room face competition from anonymous buyers on the telephone, whose bidding, in these days of huge fortunes, can seem relentless, giving them an undeniable competitive edge. Phone bidders won the majority of the Judd lots, with one client -- paddle number 1781, bidding through Christie's contemporary specialist Robert Manley -- apparently winning four Judd works. "There was talk that a consortium from Texas should be formed to buy a group of works," joked the artist’s daughter, Rainer Judd, after the sale. "Maybe the Texans bought them!" According to the Baer Faxt, buyers of Judd works in the room included Swiss art dealer Doris Ammann, Hollywood producer and Dia Center trustee Stavros Merjos and Denver gallery owner Ginny Williams.