Sale of the Week, November 11-17: A Confident Christie’s Predicts Historic Contemporary Sale

Jeff Koons, "Tulips," 1995-2004
(© Christie's Images LTD. 2012)

SALE: Post-War and Contemporary Art

LOCATION: Christie’s New York

DATE: November 14-15, 2012

ABOUT: The bar was raised at Christie’s this spring with the house’s landmark postwar and contemporary art auction, which took in $386 million — the highest total ever for the category, thanks in no small part to a certain $87 million Rothko. But now Christie’s thinks it can do even better, estimating a November sale that could garner upwards of $441 million.

The house will trot out a parade of blockbusters, including an Andy Warhol “Statue of Liberty” canvas for around $35 million and one of his Marlon Brando silkscreens for $15 million to $20 million, Jeff Koons’s balloon-tulips are on offer in the $25 million range, and there’s another radiant Rothko for $15 million to $20 million, plus a half-dozen Alexander Calders, four Gerhard Richters, and three Franz Klines.

The 74-lot evening sale is graced with several big-name collectors as well. Television producer Douglas S. Cramer is selling works by Ellsworth Kelly and Jasper Johns, while hedge-funder Steven A. Cohen is offering a $15 million, 1983 Richter abstraction, “Prag 1883.”

At least one artist record is also likely to be set. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled” 1981 painting, done when he was just 20 years old, is expected to hammer in at more than $20 million. Adding on the auction house commission, that would just surpass the $20.1 million total he did in London earlier this year.

Time will tell if Christie’s reaches its lofty goal, but it has already brought in $928 million worth of contemporary art around the world this year, which means that, either way, it will still set a pretty stunning $1 billion benchmark before 2013.