Asian collectors went shopping at Christie’s contemporary art auction on Tuesday, snapping up works and setting records for Western artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose painting fetched $57.3 million.
The $318.4 million tally for the postwar and contemporary art evening auction in New York represented a 52 percent decline from a similar sale a year ago, but six artist records were broken and the results fell within the estimated range of $280.6 million to $391.2 million.
Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese businessman, snapped up Basquiat’s 1982 canvas depicting a horned devil’s head with streams of red, green and black paint, according a person familiar with the matter. Estimated at more than $40 million, the work was sold by Adam Lindemann, a gallerist and collector who bought it for $4.5 million at Sotheby’s in 2004. Sales results include buyer’s premiums; presale estimates do not.
Maezawa, bidding through Christie’s specialist Koji Inoue, also snapped up a sculpture by Jeff Koons, a painting by Richard Prince, an Alexander Calder mobile and a light piece spelling “Eat War” by Bruce Nauman for more than $80 million. “Runaway Nurse," Prince’s 2007 work, went for $9.7 million, a record for the artist.
The founder of the online retail website, Zozotown, Maezawa’s purchases of more than $80 million accounted for one-quarter of the evening’s tally.
The sale was slimmed down from a year earlier, when Christie’s offered 82 items in a more robust market. Auction sales are showing signs of contracting amid financial-market volatility, falling oil prices and underperforming hedge funds. Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art evening sale on May 9 fell 61 percent from a year ago.
“We had a big challenge because of what happened last night,” said Brett Gorvy, Christie’s global head of postwar and contemporary art, referring to Sotheby’s auction at which only 66 percent of the lots sold. “I came to work today and told the team that our job is to get the sell-through rate of 85 percent or higher.”
At the Christie’s sale, 52 of the 60 offered lots, or 87 percent, found buyers.
To boost confidence, Christie’s staff members made phone calls, asking sellers to reduce their minimum prices and urging buyers to bid with “their eyes, not ears,” Gorvy said.