Last night the air was dense in the auction room at Sotheby’s, New York. Officials took their place by the phones on one side of the room, big rollers sat in their private suites overlooking the eager crowd of celebrity dealers and collectors as the continuous sound of the media’s camera flash went off incessantly. Even though art world “locals” have been to one too many auctions, they wouldn’t dare miss this one. On auction night you can feel people’s adrenaline rushing through their body as they take their seats in the small room; you can see their excitement through their smiles. Everyone gossiped as usual: “so-and-so is probably going to go for the Cezanne”, “who is Larry’s (Gagosian) date?”, “there’s so-and-so and he looks terrible”. But last night the big question on everyone’s mind was, who will take home Lot 20 – Edvard Munch’s The Scream. (For more info on the artwork, go to blog’s February archives).
At last the enigmatic pastel appeared and seven eager bidders began raising their paddles. As the millions pilled on, five of the bidders slowly retired from the race leaving two Sotheby’s officials on the phone with the last two contestants. The Scream had reached $106.5 million already, the record price held by Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust for most expensive work sold at auction already including the buyer’s premium (the auction house’s commission for selling the work). As the hammer went down at $107 million the crowd burst into applause without even knowing who the anonymous buyer was. Lot 20 surpassed Picasso’s record, setting a new one as it reached $120 million (including the premium). Moreover, the sale’s total bought in of $330 million set a new record for an Impressionist and Modern art auction as it’s previous record had been set at $286 million in 1990.
Other auction highlights included Dali’s Printemps Necrophiliac that fetched $16.3 million, Miro’s Tete Humain that went for $14.8 million, and Picasso’s portrait of Dora Maar was bought for $29.2 million. Many works by artists such as Brancussi, Max Ernst and Gauguin sold for over their estimates making it a successful night for many.
A new wave of superstar dealers and collectors will arrive next week at New York City for the Post-war and Contemporary art auctions that will be held starting May 8th. That’s a whole other mind blowing experience. Should be interesting – as always.