Bursting art bubble? What bursting art bubble? The Christie’s sale last night looked for all the world as though it was taking place at the height of the party: not only did it bring in a very impressive $348 million, but 70% of the buyers were American.
It also knocked Jeff Koons off his short-lived perch as the most expensive living artist at auction, when Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping sold for $33.6 million. It’s a great painting, which will surely stand the test of time much better than Koons’s Hanging Heart.
And it established a precedent for including architecture in art sales: the Kaufmann house in Palm Springs, designed by Richard Neutra, ended up selling for $16.8 million, plus another $2.1 million for the orchard next door where one can find "three cacti that were a present from Frank Lloyd Wright to Mr. Kaufmann on his first visit to the home".
Oh, and for those of you keeping track at home, Richard Prince now has a new auction record: $7.3 million, for a nurse painting.
The artist of the week though is Francis Bacon. An enormous triptych is coming up for sale at Sotheby’s tonight; Christie’s had a smaller one which sold for $28 million. This one sold at Sotheby’s in 2005 for $5.1 million, which corresponds to an annual rate of return of 176%, and a profit for the collectors, Richard and Elizabeth Hedreen, of $20 million in three years. No matter how committed you are to your collection, it’s hard to pass up that kind of money.