Works by Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and Jeff Koons each sold for more than $25 million on Wednesday, helping drive Sotheby's $364 million sale of contemporary art, which the auction house said was among its highest totals ever.
Capping two weeks of key spring auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's that saw mixed results overall, the sale was a far cry from the buying frenzy that gripped rival Christie's on Tuesday, which set a record for the biggest art auction in history with a total of $745 million.
"Tonight the market continued in a very solid way," said Alex Rotter, Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art. "We came in perfectly within our estimates."
The auction house had estimated the sale would take in anywhere from $337 million to $474 million.
Rotter added, "The global market in particular was very strong," noting that people from 37 countries worldwide placed bids during the sale. Participation from Asia and Latin America was especially significant, Sotheby's said.
The top-priced work was Warhol's "Six Self-Portraits," executed shortly before the artist's death and never before offered at auction. The set sold for $30.1 million, including commission, well within the pre-sale estimate range of $25 million to $35 million.
Carrying the same estimate, Richter's "Blau" fetched $28.7 million, while Koons' sculpture, "Popeye," sold for $28.2 million against an estimate of about $25 million. The "Popeye" buyer was casino magnate and art collector Steve Wynn, who announced that the sculpture would go on public display at one of his Las Vegas properties.
Other highlights included Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Undiscovered ..." which fetched $23.7 million, and an untitled work by Mark Rothko that sold for $12.2 million against an estimate of $8 million to $12 million.
Sotheby's said more than half the art sold went for more than its high estimates. Artists seeing new records for their works included Keith Haring, James Rosenquist, Dan Flavin and Mike Kelley.
One major casualty was an untitled work by Willem de Kooning, which was expected to sell for $18 million to $25 million, but went unsold when no bids could be attracted above $16.5 million.