NEW YORK - Just over a week ago now, I started as the new head of sale for Contemporary mid-season auctions. On my first day, we started installing the CAP Collection and Contemporary Sales (the
Rose Dergan, Will Cotton and Fabiola Beracasa.
It is no secret that Sotheby’s knows how to host a chic affair. Monday night, our cocktail preview, co-hosted by Will Cotton and sponsored by Dolce & Gabbana, was no exception. Seasoned collectors, and those still budding, mingled elbow-to-elbow with art world aristocracy—Stella Schnabel, Justine Koons, and Harry Brandt (offspring of Peter Brandt and Stephanie Seymour). The dynamic Gossip Girls mother-daughter duo, Kelly Rutherford (Lily Van Der Woodsen) and Caroline Lagerfelt (CeCe Van Der Woodsen) browsed the highlights, while the Winkelvoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, held court in Gallery One. Champagne was poured. Portobello mushroom and tuna tartare morsels were plucked off shiny plates. Air kisses flew around!
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
What was markedly different about Monday night’s affair was the hard work that I knew had gone into getting all these pieces—Christopher Wool paintings, Sterling Ruby sculptures, and William Kentridge drawings—into place. For months now, the Contemporary cataloguers and specialists have been photographing and measuring, researching and pricing. It is a truly remarkable effort that results in 421 individual artworks appearing in the glossy pages of the sale catalogue, much less landing safely on two floors at 72nd and York. I was impressed before. Now I am humbled.
The cocktail party was a sort of sending-off toast. My hope was that these lots would all find good homes. Yesterday in our sale, many of them did. The CAP Collection auction totaled $14.3 million. The most competitive bidding was seen for two Christopher Wool enamel on aluminum paintings from the late 1990s. Both works doubled the high estimates, selling for $3.6 and $3.2 million, setting an auction record for a Wool from this series. William Kentridge’s 25-piece Procession achieved $1.5 million, over an estimate of $300,000 - $400,000. This was the first time all 25 bronze sculptures were being offered together as one lot. During the exhibition, the overwhelming consensus from visitors was that Procession belonged in a museum. Following on the heels of the CAP Collection, the Contemporary Art sale achieved $12.9 million, above the high estimate total. By far the most exciting moment was when Robert Longo’s Men In the Cities: Final Life sold for $674,500, a record at auction for the artist. The rarity of the monumental red sculptural element in the installation, a looming view of Rockefeller Center, combined with the celebrity-power of the Cindy Sherman portrait in the left panel, attracted what felt like a dozen bidders. By day’s end, the combined total for both sales was over $27 million, and my respect for Gabby Palmieri, who had just stood at the auctioneer’s podium for the last three-and-a-half hours in 4-inch heels, was without compare. Even in flat boots, I was hurting.
Day twelve now, and already we are pivoting to the May and June Contemporary Sales. Not before finally making time though to check out the Armory, ADAA, and Independent Art Fairs that opened earlier this week.
Photographs by Matteo Prandoni/BFAnyc.com