Art collectors dug deep into their pockets on Wednesday and smashed records for a second straight night as Sotheby's held the biggest auction in its history, led by a record-setting $105 million (€78 million) work by Andy Warhol.
The auction of postwar and contemporary art totalled $380.6 million (€283 million) and set new auction records for major artists Cy Twombly and Brice Marden.
Of the 61 lots on offer only seven failed to sell. The total was just shy of the $394 million high pre-sale estimate and marked the auction house’s second solid success in a row after it scored with a $290 million sale of Impressionist and modern art a week ago.
The sale's expected highlight far exceeded expectations. Warhol's Silver Car Crash (Doubled Disaster), from his seminal death and disaster series, soared to $105,445,000 including commission, 50 per cent higher than the late pop artist's previous auction record of $71.7 million.
Sotheby’s did not disclose the buyer, who was bidding by telephone. It had estimated the nearly 2.7m by 4.2m work from 1963 to sell for “in excess of $60 million” but that figure turned out to be the opening bid.
Sotheby’s officials were thrilled with the results.
“How can you not be thrilled when you make the highest total in Sotheby’s history,” auctioneer and the auction house’s worldwide head of contemporary art Tobias Meyer said after the sale.
The price was the second-highest in history for a contemporary work of art – the highest being the $142.4 million fetched by Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud on Tuesday at Christie's, the top auction price ever.
Auction officials at both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have said that recent price spikes were driven in part by wealthy collectors entering what is an increasingly global market.
“Global participation was evident throughout the sale,” said Alex Rotter, head of contemporary art in New York, noting that sellers from 10 countries offered works in the sale.
As to bidders, Rotter said, “When the quality is there, multiple people from different cultural backgrounds are going for it, because it’s outstanding.” Sotheby’s said 64 per cent of registered bidders were from outside the United States.
Sotheby's also said there was "significant participation" from Asia and Latin America.