The 2017 Fall Auctions: Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale- November 16th Edition

Auction Report: Christie's Auction for the Ages
No one could have predicted just how successful last night's sale would be when Christie's originally announced its gambit to place a da Vinci in its annual post-war & contemporary evening sale. But wow did that bet pay off. 

For the more detailed report on Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvaor Mundi' selling for a draw-dropping $450.3 million (with fees), please see below. Overall, the auction brought in $785.9 million dollars last night, with 84 percent of the 58 lots being sold. 

While there were some noticeable disappointments, such as a prominent Jean-Michel Basquiat failing to meet its reserve, the night was undoubtedly a smashing success for the house. Andy Warhol's "Sixty Last Suppers" sold for $60.8 million, an untitled Cy Twombly went for $46.4 million, and Rothko's "Saffron" was bought for $32.3 million

While Jerry Saltz may still be ranting and raving into his oatmeal this morning, we hear that the fine folks at Christie's are popping champagne corks. 

News You Need to Know
Praise the Lord: There's only one story in the art world today, and it's the one that made the covers of today's editions of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. 

In a standing-room-only crowd at Christie's last night, a mysterious phone bidder represented by Alex Rotter, Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art, placed the winning bid of $400 million dollars ($450.3 million with fees) for Leonardo da Vinci’s 'Salvator Mundi', beating out Francis de Poortere, Christie’s head of old master paintings.

The bidding lasted for a whopping 19 minutes with the crowd audibly gasping and applauding as the bidding crossed the $200 million and $300 million benchmarks. While the bidding slowed at times to $2 million increments, there were also wild jumps of $14 million, $10 million intended to stifle the competition. Clearly that strategy didn't really play out according to plan. 

With the crowd including such prominent names as Larry (Gagosian), David(Zwirner) and Marc (Hauser & Wirth), as well as Eli BroadMichael OvitzMartin Margulies, and Steve Cohen, last night's sale had a rock-star atmosphere to it. 

While many are praising Christie's superb marketing for the piece- a moving video, a world tour, extensive press coverage, and even hiring an outside advertising agency to coordinate it all- at the end of the day it came down to a simple supply and demand issue. Da Vinci may have been a prolific draftsman but there are very few paintings of his in existence today; and all of them are in museum collections. The sale of 'Salvator Mundi' offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance for some very lucky billionaire out there to make the ultimate statement purchase. 

And even though detractors have pointed to the abrasions on the surface of the painting and the controversial provenance (which we detailed in yesterday's edition), there was clearly enough anticipation and demand to propel the artwork to a price well past the $100 million guarantee attached pre-sale. After all, it was still a Leonardo da Vinci- which is exactly what Christie's top brass was banking on when they chose to place it in their post-war & contemporary sale. 

Ultimately there are only a handful of people in the world capable of dropping close to a half billion dollars on a work of art. While it's doubtful that the new owner will remain a secret for long, the question on everyone's mind today is "Who was on the other end of the line with Alex Rotter"

Further Reading
As always, we've included links to detailed recaps for last night's blockbuster sale so you can gain a full 360 degree perspective of how it's being covered in the major art world publications. Check out Judd Tully on his personal blog, Nate Freeman writing for ArtNews, Robin Pogrebin & Scott Reyburn for the New York Times, Sarah Hanson at The Art Newspaper, Eileen Kinsella for Artnet, and Kelly Crow for the Wall Street Journal. And if for some reason you're still left craving for more, you can even take a quick glance at Mark Beech's coverage for the laughable

The Jewish Museum has named its next chief curator with the announcement of Darsie Alexander. She takes over in March for Normal L. Kleeblatt, and has held former positions at the Katonah Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and MoMA. Alex Greenberger has more for ArtNews. 

James Tarmy at Bloomberg Pursuits came out with a fun piece comparing some of the works up for sale this week with various other items one could purchase if they felt so inclined. Items included a Gulfstream G500 jet instead of a Van Gogh, 111 Ferraris rather than a Basquiat (which happened to have gone unsold at Christie's last evening), or the entire 2017-2018 academic year's tuition, room, and board at Princeton. We'll let you decide which you would have gone with. 

For those of you who weren't on the guest list for Tuesday's annual Whitney Art Party (and who are more voyeuristically inclined), here's a link to the BFA pagewhere you can peruse the pictures from the glitzy affair. Boldfaced names included actress Zosia Mamet, model Ashley Graham, former NFL player Victor Cruz, and the usual art world glitterati. 

Openings & Current Exhibitions

Adam Putnam at PPOW Gallery (opens tonight) 

Lara Schnitger at Anton Kern Gallery (opens tonight) 

Thomas Struth at Marian Goodman Gallery

Alex Katz at Peter Blum Gallery 

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