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Iran is starting to use its soft power, agreeing last month to lend works from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art’s (TMoCA) collection of international and Iranian art for an exhibition in Berlin next year. The show, a symbol of Iran’s rapprochement with the West, could travel beyond Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Tehran museum tells us. The exhibition will include works by international and Iranian artists.

Other leading museums have expressed an interest in borrowing from the Tehran collection, which includes works by Picasso, Rothko, Pollock and Bacon among others.

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Wednesday, 07 November 2012 19:59

Christie’s Predicts a Blockbuster Contemporary Sale

After a monumental postwar and contemporary auction that totaled $386 million this past spring, Christie’s expects an even bigger sale this November. Taking place November 14–15 in New York, the auction house estimates that the Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale could garner more than $441 million.

The 74-lot evening auction includes Andy Warhol’s Statue of Liberty canvas expected to bring in around $35 million and one of his silkscreens of Marlon Brando estimated at $15-$20 million. Other major draws include Jeff Koons’ balloon tulips for $25 million, a Rothko painting for $15-$20 million, and works by market darlings Alexander Calder, Gerhard Richter, Franz Kline, Ellsworth Kelly, and Jasper Johns. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1981) is expected to set records for the artist with an estimate of $20 million.

Christie’s has already brought in $928 million in contemporary art sales this year.

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Mark Rothko’s fiery “Orange, Red, Yellow” sold for a record $86.9 million at Christie’s in New York last night in the biggest-ever postwar and contemporary art auction.

Artist records were also set for Jackson Pollock, Gerhard Richter, Barnett Newman, Alexander Calder and Yves Klein, among others, in last night’s $388.5 million, 59-lot sale. It exceeded Christie’s $384.7 million tally in May 2007, the previous contemporary auction champ, as well as the high $330 million presale estimate.

“Billionaires have gone global,” New York dealer Jack Tilton said upon exiting the midtown salesroom. “It’s very healthy for the market, obviously.”

The 8-by-7-foot Rothko surged past its $45 million presale high estimate amid multiple telephone bids. Christie’s said it was the highest price for a contemporary artwork, displacing an $86.3 million Francis Bacon at Sotheby’s in May 2008.

Last night’s 1961 Rothko was one of 13 artworks from the estate of David Pincus, the retired chairman of apparel manufacturer Pincus Brothers-Maxwell, who died in December. It was on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Pincus was a trustee. Pincus and his wife, Gerry, bought it from New York’s Marlborough Gallery in 1967.

Another Pincus trophy, Pollock’s canvas “No. 28,” sold for $23 million, almost doubling the previous Pollock record of $11.7 million, set in 2004. Newman’s 1952 painting “Onement V” went for $22.5 million, surpassing the high estimate of $15 million and the artist’s record of $5.2 million.
The Pincus 13 totaled $174.9 million.

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The market for trophy art roared back after a three-night case of the blahs as Christie’s International saw its biggest tally for a New York evening contemporary-art sale since May 2008.

All but three of the 65 lots sold last night, with Cy Twombly and Richard Diebenkorn paintings setting records and a Cindy Sherman fetching the highest price ever for a photo at auction, $3.9 million.

The $301.7 million total surpassed the $299 million high presale estimate and was the closely held auctioneer’s largest in the category since the market was sideswiped by the world financial crisis.

The top lot was Andy Warhol’s 1963-64 “Self- Portrait,” made of four photo-booth-strip images in different shades of blue.

It went for $38.4 million, above the $30 million high estimate, after a tortuous -- some dealers said tedious -- bidding war between private art dealer Philippe Segalot and a telephone client of Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman and international head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s. The price was an auction record for a Warhol portrait.

Dealers said the evening offered rarer works than Sotheby’s (BID) $128.1 million contemporary sale the previous night. Collectors and dealers had likewise complained that the two Impressionist and modern evening sales last week skimped on masterpieces.

‘Night and Day’

“It’s like night and day,” said Lucy Mitchell-Innes, a New York art dealer. Sotheby’s on Tuesday night “was dreary and a real struggle. It’s all about quality.”

Both of the major Sotheby’s New York evening sales were at the low end of their estimates. The auctioneer’s shares are off 23 percent since April 5.

Another highlight at Christie’s was an undocumented 1961 painting by Mark Rothko that went for $33.7 million, above the high presale estimate of $22 million. Classical postwar works by Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder and Sam Francis brought strong results.

“Quality speaks,” said Daniella Luxembourg, private art dealer in New York and London. “The rarity of things like Rothko is covering the aggressive estimates.”

‘Because I Love It’

The most aggressively estimated Warhol of the season didn’t fare as well. A 1986 self-portrait of the artist in a spiky wig sold for $27.5 million, missing the low estimate of $30 million. It landed with the Mugrabi family, known for its vast Warhol collection and steadfast support of the artist’s market.

When asked why he bought the Warhol, Jose Mugrabi said, “Why? Because I love it. I have no client for it.”

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An undocumented Mark Rothko painting could fetch as much as $22 million at Christie’s in New York next month as collectors from Moscow to Qatar vie for trophy art.

“Untitled No. 17,” depicting pink and red rectangles on a tangerine-yellow background, will be offered at Christie’s postwar and contemporary art auction on May 11.

The 1961 painting, which hasn’t been seen publicly since 1965, is one of several rediscovered art works on the block this year. Christie’s is offering Roy Lichtenstein’s, “Drawing for Kiss V,” which re-emerged after decades of obscurity with an estimate range of $800,000 to $1.2 million. It was originally bought with a $10 lottery ticket in 1965.

An unpublished 1967 self-portrait by Andy Warhol fetched 10.8 million pounds ($17.4 million) at Christie’s in London earlier this year.

“Untitled No. 17” is one of 10 Rothko paintings discovered since the publication of the artist’s catalogue raisonne in 1998.

“It’s one of the very few that got away,” said David Anfam, London-based art historian and the author of “Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas.” “It went to a private collection soon after it was made and those collectors just kept a very low profile.”

Rothko painted 22 mostly somber canvases in 1961, the year of his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“This work is coming in between two milestones of his late development,” Anfam said. “He has finished the Seagram murals, and he is on the brink of getting into the Harvard murals; that’s going to be in 1962.”

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