Christie’s sells Rothko for $82 million on way to record sales week

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Baku, May 14, AZERTAC 

Sotheby’s sold a yellow-and-blue Mark Rothko abstract from 1954 for $46.5 million on Tuesday. The following night, archrival Christie’s International hollered back by selling a rust-colored, rectangular version that Rothko painted four years later for $82 million.

Dealers said Christie’s Rothko, “No. 10,” was prized in part because its blurry brown and black hues famously matched the somber mood of the artist at that time in his career. It sold to a telephone bidder.

The Rothko anchored a $658.5 million sale at Christie’s that saw eight works sell for more than $20 million apiece. The sale also helped the auction house reach a new benchmark in auction history: It has sold more than $1 billion in art over the course of a single week. It has another sale still to go Thursday.

The total underscores how confident collectors are about the trajectory of art values and their eagerness to join in no matter how high prices climb.

On Wednesday, collectors reset records for eight artists including Robert Rauschenberg, whose “Johanson’s Painting” mixed-media work made with objects like a shaving brush and a picture frame sold for $18.6 million.

Other works sold for far more. Andy Warhol’s “Colored Mona Lisa,” a 10-foot-tall silkscreen peppered with candy-color versions of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous model, sold to New York dealer Larry Gagosian for $56 million.

Lucian Freud’s 1994 portrait of a corpulent nude woman, “Benefits Supervisor Resting,” sold for $56.2 million to London dealer Pilar Ordovas, over its $50 million high estimate. After the sale, Ms. Ordovas said she bought the work on behalf of a client who wishes to remain anonymous.

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