Back in the New York Groove
November 7, 2011

NEW YORK—The blockbuster fall auctions in New York are viewed by many as a barometer of the overall health of the art market. Despite the economic turmoil from the European debt crisis and the anemic American recovery, art prices are generally decoupled from other luxury goods and asset classes. Therefore, the mixed results of the recent auctions in New York have been blamed on the quality of the goods consigned to auction rather than buyers’ trepidation.

Collectors and dealers will be watching the auctions closely for clues about the next move for prices. According to Jeff Rabin of ArtVest, collectors are favoring high-quality works by major artists, in contrast to the often-indiscriminate buying before the crash. This conservative attitude seemed to be the consensus at Frieze Art Fair, where gallery booths erred on the side of caution by displaying highly sellable works by established artists over more challenging work by emerging artists.

This week, the big three will be presenting iconic works by darlings of the collector class. On November 8th, the Postwar and Contemporary Sale at Christie’s will include Roy Lichtenstein’s 1961 painting “I Can See the Whole Room!…and There’s Nobody in It!”, estimated by the auction house to sell for between $35 million and $45 million. Another closely watched lot is Peter Brant’s 1963 Silver Liz by Andy Warhol, which has a pre-sale estimate of $16 million to $19 million. Warhol created numerous portraits of Elizabeth Taylor throughout his career, many of which were recently on view at Gagosian’s 21st street space. Bridgette Bardot is getting a similar treatment at the Gagosian’s Davies street location in London through November 22nd. At Phillips, there is also a healthy supply of what Carol Vogel calls “classic pop images”, where Warhol’s “Nine Gold Marilyns (Reversal Series)” from 1980 could fetch $10 million.

Sotheby’s will also be presenting its fair share of auction standards during their Contemporary Art Evening Sale on November 9th, including paintings by Bacon, Richter and Rothko. However, the auction house also has the distinction of presenting a rare trio of paintings by Clyfford Still. The works are new to the market, and have been out of public view since the artist’s death over 30 years ago. They are being sold to raise funds for his namesake museum, which is scheduled to open later this month in Denver. The painting entitled “1949-A-No. 1” is estimated to collect between $25 million and $35 million.

Images: Clyfford Still’s 1949-A-NO.1 (Est. 25 – 35,000,000 USD) via Sotheby’s, Andy Warhol’s Silver Liz (Est. 16 – 19,000,000 USD) via Christie’s and Cy Twombly’s Untitled 2006 (Est. 8 – 12,000,000 USD) via Phillips de Pury

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