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  • Over $68 Million Achieved at Sotheby's Contemporary Art
    May 12, 2005 NEW YORK.

    Andy Warhol, Liz, 1963, sold for $12.6 million at Sotheby's.

    Following a heated battle among four collectors, Andy Warhol's red Liz sold for $12.6 million to Laurence Graff, an English private collector and owner of Graff Jewellers, over the telephone. This surpasses the highest price paid for a work from this prized series of Colored Liz paintings and tops the $9/12 million pre-sale estimate*. This iconic canvas was the highlight of Sotheby's evening sale of Contemporary Art which totaled $68,036,800. In total, 18 works sold for more than $1 million, and the sale was 82.2% sold by lot and 88.9% by value.

    "We are delighted with the results of tonight's sale which set auction records for seven artists including Chuck Close, Andreas Gursky, Marisol Escobar and Robert Gober among others," commented Tobias Meyer, tonight's auctioneer and Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby's. "In addition to the strong price achieved for Liz, Pop Art sold particularly well, with excellent prices for works by Lichtenstein and Basquiat. Tonight also proved that Jeff Koons continues to attract intense competition, both for his paintings and sculptural works."

    The top price achieved tonight was for Andy Warhol's magnificent Liz from 1963. This pristine work came to the market after more than 40 years in one private collection and the market responded with great enthusiasm, driving the price to $12,616,000. Warhol created a series of thirteen paintings of Elizabeth Taylor on colored backgrounds, and this is the only painting in the series that has a vibrant 'naphthol red light' background. It represents the apotheosis of Warhol's creative vision, displaying his fascination with mortality, celebrity and fame.

    Bidding was fierce for works offered tonight from the Collection of Gianni Versace, which totaled more than $11,473,600 million, far surpassing the pre-sale estimate of $6.9/9.5 million. No fewer than six bidders competed for Roy Lichtenstein's Blue Nude, an oil on canvas from 1995, selling for $5,280,000 (est. $2.5/3.5 million), the top price for a late work by the artist. Also by Lichtenstein was Still Life with Envelope from 1982 which brought $1,248,000 (est. $600/800,000), and Ritual Mask, a stainless steel and enamel sculpture from 1992, brought $486,400 (est. $300/400,000). Two later works by Lichtenstein, among the artist's last paintings which were commissioned by Mr. Versace, brought strong prices. Still Life with Diana and Still Life with Ajax, each estimated at $400/600,000, sold for $968,000 and $688,000 respectively.

    Setting a record for a collaborative work between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat was Amoco, a monumental-scale canvas from 1984 that sold for $420,500 million (est. $900,000/1.2 million). In addition, Basquiat's In the Cipher, an important, large-scale work from 1982 sold for $1,472,000 (est. $1.5/2.0 million). Sotheby's New York will sell Property from the Collection of Gianni Versace, including furniture and decorations from his New York townhouse, in a single-owner sale on Saturday, May 21st.

    Also highlighting the evening and setting a record was Chuck Close's mesmerizing and monumental portrait of John from 1971-1972 which sold for $4,823,000 (est. $5/7 million). It came from the Robert B. Mayer Family who purchased this rare and iconic work from the Bykert Gallery in January of 1972 for $9,000. The series of five prints of John from 1972 sparked heated bidding in the room and on the telephone, selling for $204,000 (est. $80/120,000), establishing a record for a print by the artist at auction. Also by Close was a portrait of friend and fellow artist Eric Fischl from 1990 which brought $3,040,000 (est. $2.8/3.5 million). This work came from a Private Midwest Collection.

    Also from the Robert B. Mayer Family Collection came two wonderful works by Marisol Escobar and collectors responded with great enthusiasm. The Cocktail Party, an assemblage from 1965-66 of 15 freestanding figures of women in ball gowns and men in tuxedos, brought $912,000 (est. $400/600,000), a new auction record for the artist, and The Family, six figures with a baby carriage executed in 1963, sold for $632,000 after a lengthy bidding battle in the saleroom (est. $200/300,000).

    Works by younger artists set numerous records and brought strong prices tonight. Leading the group was Jeff Koons' monumental painting entitled Cake from the artist's Celebration series. This 1996 oil on canvas, acquired by the current owner directly from the artist, sold for $2,248,000 (est. $2.5/3.5 million), a new record for a painting by the artist. Also by Koons was New Hoover Quick-Brook & New Hoover Celebrity IV, a sculpture executed in 1980 that drew intense bidding, selling to a bidder on the telephone for $1,024,000, above a $900,000 high estimate. Robert Gober's Untitled Leg, a sculpture of an isolated and dislocated foot executed in 1990 brought $912,000 (est. $750/950,000), an auction record for the artist.