Art And Culture

Warhol’s $1 Bill Fetches $32m at Sotheby’s

Warhol’s $1 Bill Fetches $32m at Sotheby’s Warhol’s $1 Bill Fetches $32m at Sotheby’s

Paintings of US dollar bills that decorated the walls of Sotheby’s salesroom helped the auctioneer rake in $203.6 million during its biggest contemporary art sale in London.

Although Wednesday’s uneven auction didn’t reach its target, the result was a 40% increase from the equivalent event a year ago. The 58-lot sale was led by Andy Warhol’s painting of a dollar bill that fetched $ 32.8 million. But two Warhol silkscreens were among the nine unsold lots along with such market stalwarts as Francis Bacon and Gerhard Richter, reports

“There’s a little bit of cooling,” said Betsy Bickar, an adviser in postwar and contemporary art at Citi Private Bank Art Advisory & Finance. “It felt like people were being selective and careful.”

Sotheby’s auction was the last major event of an art season marked by record consumption. Chinese and Russian billionaires competed with wealthy Americans for art trophies seen increasingly as a good store of excess cash. In May, $2.7 billion of art changed hands during auctions in New York. The shopping spree continued in June at Art Basel, the modern and contemporary art fair in Switzerland where $3.4 billion worth of goods was for sale.

As clients arrived Wednesday, they were greeted by a group of protesters outside Sotheby’s on New Bond Street. Some carried signs “Angry Artist.”

Warhol’s hand-painted 1962 “One Dollar Bill (Silver Certificate)” surpassed its high estimate of 18 million pounds and went to a telephone client of Alex Branczik, head of contemporary art in London for Sotheby’s.

The six-foot-wide work was part of a 10-lot group with a U.S. currency theme. Eight sold, totaling 34.3 million pounds. The two unsold Warhols were jointly estimated at 25 million pounds. The biggest casualty was Bacon’s painting of a crimson-robed pope estimated at 25 million pounds to 35 million pounds. It didn’t draw a single bid.

“Study for a Pope I” is part of a group of six pope paintings Bacon made in 1961 ahead of his retrospective at the Tate museum in London, according to Sotheby’s.

Two self-portraits by Bacon that have been off the market for decades fared better. A 1975 self-portrait sold for 15.3 million pounds, slightly above its 15 million pound high estimate. A 1980 “Three Studies for Self-Portrait” fetched 14.7 million pounds.