It wasn't quite as dramatic as the record-busting sale at its rival Christie's on Monday, but the Contemporary Art Evening at auction-house Sotheby's (bid) Tuesday still managed to drop a few jaws.
Sotheby's said its auction realized $379.7 million, with the top prices being bid for works by Mark Rothko, Roy Liechtenstein and Jackson Pollock.
Together with Christie's "Looking Forward to the Past" sale Monday that spanned 100 years of modernist works, the two sales thus realized over $1 billion, an emphatic reminder of the giddying rise in fine art prices in the last couple of years. At the Christie's auction, a cubist work by Pablo Picasso, 'Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)' had set a new world record for any painting sold at auction, fetching $179.9 million.
Rothko's 'Untitled (Yellow and Blue) sold for $46.5 million, while Liechtenstein's 'The Ring (Engagement)' went for $41.7 million, largely in line with expectations. A characteristic abstract work by Pollock from 1950 raised $18.3 million. The main surprise of the evening was Christopher Wool's 'Untitled (RIoT)', which went for $29.9 million, double its pre-sale low estimate and a new record for the artist.
The value of the global art market grew an estimated 7% to a record 51 billion euros ($56 billion) last year, taking it for the first time above the pre-crisis peak of €48 billion, according to the European Fine Art Foundation in Maastricht, The Netherlands.
It isn't just paintings that are fetching record prices either. Sotheby's had earlier this week held the most valuable sale of jewellery in history at its Geneva branch in Switerland, raising the equivalent of $161.5 million. TEFAF estimates that high net-worth individuals (those with investable worth of over $1 million) spent more on jewellery, gems and watches last year than either antiques or art.