The upper echelons of the commercial art world are doing just fine, if the last two days of Christie’s and Sotheby’s modern and contemporary art auctions are anything to go by. On Tuesday Christie’s did somewhat better than expected, though two pieces that didn’t sell would have provided a huge boost.
And last night the world’s wealthiest collectors worked themselves into a bidding frenzy at Sotheby’s over Andy Warhol’s “200 Dollar Bills” (pictured), a silkscreen painting of 200 one-dollar bills from 1962 projected to sell for between $8 and $12 million, which ended up going to an anonymous bidder for $43.7 million.
All of which sounds like a return to the situation of a few years ago, when collectors were paying absurd prices for contemporary artists with lots of buzz and not much merit, but there’s a crucial difference here: these bidders are spending millions on museum pieces by big names from modern art history. Though the Times construes last night’s Warhol pandemonium at Sotheby’s as some sign that the art world is emerging from its recession bunker, putting your money into a Warhol or a Jasper Johns is basically like buying gold.