Sotheby’s reports healthy sales for its May Contemporary Art evening sale

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It may not have been the dazzling record-breaker that was Monday’s sale of Modern, Impressionist and Contemporary art at Christie’s (at which Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger fetched an unprecedented $179,365,000) but Sotheby’s said it was pleased with the results of Tuesday’s May Contemporary art evening sale, which totalled $380 million, with 87% of lots sold.

The highlight of the evening was the sale of Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Yellow and Blue), which went to an anonymous client for $46.5m after it was underbid by an Asian private collector.

Roy Lichtenstein’s The Ring (Engagement) sold for $41,690,000. The work has had only two owners in 50 years and came from the collection of Stefan Edlis. The price is nearly 20 times the $2,202,500 the work fetched when it last appeared at auction in November 1997 at Sotheby’s.

Untitled (RIOT), an early masterwork by Christopher Wool that had been in the same collection since 1991, sold for $29,930,000, establishing a new record for the artist at auction (est. $12/8 million).

Sigmar Polke’s Dschungel (Jungle) also set a new benchmark, with a final price of $27,130,000 – four years after it fetched $9.2 million in the Sotheby’s London sale of the Duerckheim Collection (est. in the region of $20 million).

Superman by Andy Warhol fetched $14,362,000 after it was sought by seven bidders from around the world (est. $6/8m), a record for the Myths series at auction. Mao from 1973, also by Warhol, sold for $14,474,000 (est. $13/16m). All five works by the artist found buyers.

Alexander Rotter, co-head of Sotheby’s Global Contemporary Art department, said: “With a total of $380 million, an outstanding sell-through rate, and records for artists spanning the gamut of Contemporary art, the sale tonight was a great success. In a sale that saw bids coming thick and fast from all corners of the room and all corners of the globe, tonight’s total was just a heartbeat away from being our best ever.”