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  • Sixteen World Auction Records Achieved at Christie's
    May 13, 2005 NEW YORK.

    Chair Car (detail), 1965, a rare masterpiece by Edward Hopper that sold for $14,016,000 and set a new world auction record for the artist. Sale 1516, Lot 34 Property From the Collection of Helen and David B. Pall.

    Christie's evening sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Rockefeller Center totaled $133,707,200 tonight, a record for any sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art worldwide, ever. The sale saw sixteen new world auction records and was 91% sold by value and 86% sold by lot. The top lot of the evening was Edward Hopper's Chair Car, a haunting yet mesmerizing work that sold for $14,016,000 and set a new world auction record for the artist. Thirty-five works sold for over $1 million, and 96% of the lots fetched prices within or above pre-sale estimates. Buyers were 79% American, 20% European and 1% other.

    "Tonight's sale was an amazing and stellar event," said Christopher Burge, Honorary Chairman of Christie's Americas and the evening's auctioneer. "The sale was beautiful to look at and beautiful to sell. With great works from the 1940s and 50s all the way through to the present, it had everything an auctioneer and collectors could possibly want. Bidders fought fiercely and persistently over almost every lot, attracted by accurate and enticing estimates. 'Chapeau' to my colleagues for putting such a sale together."

    The top lot of the sale was Chair Car, 1965, a quintessential Hopper painting and one of the last works by the artist in private hands. The painting rapidly surpassed the previous world auction record for Hopper, which stood at $2.5 million, when it sold for $14,016,000. A virtual 'snapshot' of a moment in a rail car, Chair Car depicts a simple yet forceful composition of four solitary figures, three women and one man, seated far apart from one another and who are seemingly engrossed in thought. The painting came from the collection of David and Helen Pall.

    An unprecedented act of philanthropy came to fruition tonight with the sale of 13 masterworks of abstract expressionist art, donated by a New York couple to the Jewish Communal Fund. A fabulous highlight of the collection was Willem de Kooning's Sail Cloth, executed in 1949, before de Kooning embarked upon his famous Woman series. Against a pre-sale estimate of $8-12 million, the painting achieved $13,120,000. Mark Rothko's Untitled, 1964, a deeply resonant canvas from his later years, marked by a shimmering cranberry border and balance of contrasting tones, realized $10,096,000. A masterful black and white composition by Franz Kline, Crow Dancer flew to $6,400,000. The total result for the collection, which further included works by Rauschenberg, Cornell, Newman, Noguchi and Smith was $44,268,800 and saw 5 world auction records including one for Arshile Gorsky's Composition II (a new world auction record for a work on paper at $2,760,000) and Joseph Cornell's Untitled (Medici Princess) (a world auction record for Cornell at $2,592,000). The proceeds will be contributed to the couple's philanthropic fund at the Jewish Communal Fund to support issues of health, education, medical research and other needs in the global community.

    From the Collection of Ruth and Harvey Kaplan came Philip Guston's The Street, painted in 1956, the last great year of sensual abstraction for the artist. One of the last Guston abstract paintings from this period that is not in a museum or private collection, the work's importance and rare availability was instantly acknowledged by several collectors and the resulting bidding was fierce. The Street realized $7,296,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $3-4 million, a new world auction record for the artist.

    Sculpture fared well throughout the sale. Jasper John's The Critic Sees, 1961, was one of the much coveted works. Against an estimate of $3,500,000-5,000,000, the sculpture sold for $3,936,000, a world auction record for a sculpture by Johns. Other pieces of sculpture that fetched solid prices include David Smith's Voltri ($912,000); Femme couchée by Alexander Calder ($1,920,000), a sensual and elegant wire sculpture of Josephine Baker; and Tripod ($2,144,000), a magnificent outdoor sculpture by the same artist.

    Two paintings by Britain's most iconic modernist painters, Bacon and Freud, both realized excellent results. Bacon's Seated Figure, 1979, a searing representation of the human condition fetched $3,936,000 while Lucian Freud's Naked Woman on a Sofa, 1984-85 realized $5,616,000.

    Other highlights of the evening's sale included Andy Warhol's Flowers, 1965 (7,856,000); Jeff Koons' Small Vase of Flowers, 1991 ($2,256,000); Luc Tuymans' Sculpture, 2000 ($1,472,000); Peter Doig's Briey (Concrete Cabin), 1994-1996 ($632,000) and Elizabeth Peyton's John Lennon 1964 ($800,000).