Christie’s Post-War And Contemporary Art Sale In New York Brings In Record $745M In A Single Day; Barnett Newman's Abstract Painting Sells For $84.1M

Francis Bacon's painting
A Christie's employee poses as she views 'Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards' by British artist Francis Bacon at Christie's auction house in central London, April 11, 2014. The oil paintings have a predicted auction sale estimate of US$80 million (approximately 48 million pounds) and forms part of the Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in New York on May 13. Reuters/Toby Melville

Christie’s made its biggest auction sale ever on Tuesday night in New York by selling $745 million worth of post-war and contemporary art, as bidders from 35 countries competed for masterpieces by the likes of Andy Warhol, Barnett Newman and Francis Bacon.

The latest auction total surpassed November's record sale of $691.6 million and last May’s total of $495 million for post-war and contemporary art, while resetting price records for the works of artists such as Newman and Alexander Calder. The two-day sale, on Monday and Tuesday, brought in Christie’s a total of $879.5 million, the highest total in art-market history, and high prices are again expected Wednesday night when Sotheby's is set to host its own sale of modern art.

"Well we've actually made history tonight," Brett Gorvy, Christie's head of post-war art reportedly said, according to BBC. "It was a momentous evening."

Newman’s “Black Fire I” oil-on-canvas from 1961 sold for $84.1 million, including the buyer’s premium, surpassing the $43.8 million record set last year for his “Onement VI.” The painting also topped Bacon’s “Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards,” which sold for $80.8 million, and was reportedly bought by a private Asian buyer. Bacon’s triptych’s sale was estimated within a range of $75 million to $95 million. In November 2013, Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” had set a world record price of $142.4 million.

Two works from Andy Warhol's Death and Disaster series, “White Marilyn” from 1962 and “Race Riot, 1964” were sold for a combined $100 million.

Of the 72 post-war and contemporary artworks offered, only four works failed to find buyers, Christie’s reportedly said. Five of the top 10 pieces in the sale were reportedly bought by Xin Li, Christie’s deputy chairman in Asia, who bid on behalf of clients on the telephone.

Mark Rothko's untitled 1952 oil on canvas was sold for $66 million, while Calder's “Poisson volant (Flying Fish)” made in 1957, clocked an artist auction record of $25.9 million from a low estimate of $9 million, while Joan Mitchell's "Untitled" sold for $11.9 million.

"These are incredible statistics," Gorvy reportedly said, adding: "Everyone asked me last year 'are we in a bubble?’ We're in the middle of a fantastic moment, a fantastic moment which is rising with great foundation stones, fantastic collectors and a very international spread."

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