$22.4m record for Rothko canvas


US: A Christie's sale of postwar and contemporary art met its advance billing as the biggest auction of its kind on Tuesday, with a Mark Rothko oil painting setting a new world record of $22.4 million (€19.07 million) for any postwar work at auction.

New marks were also set for artists Roy Liechtenstein, Francis Bacon and several others, as the auction house achieved the highest total for the increasingly lucrative postwar and contemporary market, selling $157.4 million. That exceeded the pre-sale high-end estimate of $145 million.

Christie's honorary chairman, Christopher Burge, who served as the evening's auctioneer, said the bidding at all price levels was "incredibly buoyant". "We had a record number of records," he added.

The sale included 18 new records among the 40 artists included in the sale. Rothko set records for both his painting and a work on paper.

Only four of the 70 lots on offer failed to sell.

Christie's had said before the auction that it anticipated a high total sale because an unusual amount of high-quality art had come onto the market, and said afterward the strong prices reflected a "very broad and deep market". The sale's star was Rothko's 1954 oil-on-canvas Homage to Matisse. It was the only abstract-expressionist piece by the artist, who died in 1970, to carry a title.

The large work consisted of monolithic blocks in red, yellow and blue. Its sale price of $22.4 million included the auction house's commission. - (Reuters)