By Mackie Healy, Art Market Views Contributor
The sale of corporate art from Neuberger Berman and Lehman Brothers tallied $12.3 million today at Sotheby’s, exceeding the $12 million presale high estimate. Seventeen auction records were achieved.
Julie Mehretu’s layered, abstract Untitled 1 (2001) was the sale’s top lot, selling for $1 million to an unnamed private collector bidding by phone. The work was estimated to sell for $600,000 – $800,000, outstripping the $21,726 Neuberger had paid in 2001. The large-scale ink and acrylic canvas also set a new auction record for Mehretu, surpassing the previous high – $394,038 for Untitled (Dervish), 2005 at Sotheby’s London in June 2009.
Eighty-three percent of the 142 lots found buyers. The majority of the bidding was done over the phone, with intermittent paddle-waving from dealers and Wall Street types, unbuttoning their weekday trading suits for Saturday casual ensembles of golf shirts and running shorts.
There was even some institutional bidding.The Museum Art Center Buenos Aires (MACBA), snatched up works by Robert Longo, Callum Innes, and Karin Davie, spending $212,000.
With a preponderance of phone bidding, the salesroom mood was sluggish, despite yeoman efforts of auctioneer Tobias Meyer. Meyer, who usually handles pricey evening auctions gamely plucked a few bids from cyberspace via Sotheby’s online bidding system. Meyer, who conducted the first half of the sale, announced it was his first run-in with Internet bidding. He looked at a laptop positioned a few feet in front of his rostrum. “Not yours computer,” he quipped, when the online bidder was outdone by a dealer in the salesroom.
Conceptual artist Glenn Ligon also achieved an auction record. His 1991 work, Invisible Man (Two Views), saw competitive telephone bidding before selling to a caller for $434,500. Ligon has gotten off to a strong fall. His previous auction record was established last week at Christie’s. The similar smudged text Invisible Man painting fetched $314,500 at that sale.
Liu Ye’s The Long Way Home, (2005) was the sale’s second priciest lot, fetching $962,500. The snowy portrait of a little girl dressed in pink and her hooded guardian was estimated to sell for $500,000 – $700,000. The multi-colored catalog cover lot – Untitled (Three-tiered Perspective) by Mark Grotjahn – rounded out the top three, going for $782,500 to a phone bidder.
Not all was buoyant.The sale’s top projected lot, Damien Hirst’s 1993 We’ve Got Style (The Vessel Collection – Blue/Green), tanked. Meyer opened the bidding at $200,000, but found no takers. The turquoise cabinet of household curiosities was pegged to sell for $800,000 – $1.2 million.
More Lehman material sells at Christie’s on Wednesday, Sept. 29 in London. Freeman’s in Philadelphia offers more Lehman art Nov. 7.
The Top Ten (prices include buyer’s premium):
1) Julie Mehretu, Untitled 1, 2001 $1 million (est. $600,000 – $800,000) Buyer: Private Collector
2) Lie Ye, The Long Way Home, 2005 $962,500 (est. $500,000 – $700,000) Buyer: Private Collector
3) Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Three-tiered Perspective), 2000 $782,500 (est. $600,000 – $800,000) Buyer: Anonymous
4) Neo Rauch, Einbruch, 1999 $542,500 (est. $400,000 – $600,000) Buyer: Anonymous
5 & 6 ) Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (763-5), 1992 $506,600 (est. $200,000 – $300,000) Buyer: American Private Collector
Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (763-9), 1992 $506,500 (est. $300,000 – $400,000) Buyer: Anonymous
7) John Baldessari, Stares (with Lamps), 1986 $482,500 (est. $350,000 – $450,000) Buyer: American Private Collector
8 & 9) Olafur Eliasson, The Waterfall Series, 1996 $458,500 (est. $60,000 – $80,000) Buyer: American Private Collector
Gerhard Richter, Betty, 1991 $458,500 (est. $100,000 – $150,000) Buyer: Anonymous
10) Glenn Ligon, Invisible Man (Two Views), $434,500 (est. $100,000 – $150,000) Buyer: Anonymous