Jackson Pollock sale breaks art records

2013-05-16 10:16
New York - A Jackson Pollock drip painting sold on Wednesday at Christie's in New York for a record $58.4m and a work by one-time graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat set another record at $48.8m.

Number 19, 1948 features Pollock's iconic drip-paint style, creating a shimmering mixture of silver, black, white, red and green.

It had been expected to sell for between $25m and $35m, but shot up to set a new auction high for the artist. The previous top auction price for a Pollock had been $40.4m last year, although his paintings are said to have sold for far more in unconfirmed private deals.

Number 19 was painted in 1948, the point when the famous and often imitated Pollock drip technique really took off.

'Three-year burst of creativity'

Christie's called it the fruit of "a legendary three-year burst of creativity between 1947 and 1950 that completely revolutionised American painting and reshaped the history of twentieth century art".

The exuberant sale at Christie's in Manhattan came a day after rival Sotheby's sold Barnett Newman's Onement VI for $43.84m and a Gerhard Richter photo-style painting called Domplatz, Mailand for $37.1m - the highest auction price for any living artist.

Christie's blockbuster session saw Basquiat's Dustheads easily pass beyond its $25m to $35m pre-sale estimate to the highest auction price ever for the artist, who died in 1988 of a heroin overdose in New York, aged just 27.

The painting depicts two grimacing, brightly coloured figures against a black background and "demonstrates Basquiat's unique ability to combine raw, unabashed expressive emotion whilst displaying a draughtmanship that was unrivalled in modern painting," Christie's said.

Mega-sale by Lichtenstein

The previous auction high for the street artist turned superstar had been $26.4m last year.

The other mega sale of the evening was Woman with flowered hat by Pop Art master Roy Lichtenstein for $56.1m.

The work is unusual for Lichtenstein, who is best known for comic-strip style scenes, but this time used his meticulous style to parody the Cubism of Picasso.