In the early 2000s Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino magnate, was able to apply this strategy to promote his establishment, where he would exhibit his newly acquired works.
Phillips, the outsider owned by a Russian luxury group and which works hard to exist in the face of the duopoly, sold 100% of its lots, also on 18 May, for a total of $110.2 million.
At Christie’s the star lot was ‘Leda and the Swan’, a 1962 painting by Cy Twombly (1928-2011), a set of vivid gestures on the canvas, which achieved $52.8 million.
Imagine buying a painting for $19,000 in 1984 it being sold for $110.5 million in 2017.
That’s what happened on Thursday 18 May at Sotheby’s when the hammer fell on the sale (with fees) of a Jean Michel Basquiat canvas from 1982 depicting a skull against a blue background which seems to forestall his premature death.
The exceptional Pompidou Centre retrospective that has just ended may be a factor in explaining the result.
Watch the video Christie’s did about the auction of the Twombly.
According to Brett Gorvy, head of contemporary art at Christie’s for many years and now partner to Dominique Levy at the helm of the Levy-Gorvy gallery ‘the crucial moment this season was when after this exceptional Basquiat, another Basquiat, ‘In the Wings’, representing a saxophonist, came to the auction block. There was no doubt over the difference in quality between these two works.
The market is rational and highly discerning.’ Broadly speaking the evening sales, containing the most expensive lots and those most emblematic of the times, all achieved strong results.
That tells you everything you need to know.’ He adds, ‘it’s an absolute masterpiece.
It could easily be worth 0 million in five years’ time.’ According to professional sources it seems that the rival bidder for the work – at million there were only two remaining – was Frank Fertitta, owner of a string of casinos in Las Vegas.
But the record for a Twombly is still held by a 1968 canvas resembling chalk on a blackboard that went for million in November 2015.