Art Continues to Buck Ragged Economy

Contemporary works bring $348M at Christie's—which even sells a house

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff

Posted May 14, 2008 2:21 PM CDT

(Newser) – Christie's auction of contemporary art in New York belied an economic downturn, the Times reports, with paintings, sculpture, and even a house fetching handsome prices. Two works drew particular attention: a portrait of a 280-pound nude woman by Lucian Freud, which sold for $33.6 million, and a house in Palm Springs by Richard Neutra, which fetched $16.8 million.

The most expensive lot of the night was a Mark Rothko that hit $50 million, but artists from Francis Bacon to Andy Warhol to Jeff Koons brought big bank. Most of the collectors in the Rockefeller Center showroom were Americans, although the auction house also reported a strong Russian presence. "The market is defying gravity," said mega-collector Eli Broad.

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, by British artist Lucian Freud, sold for $33.6 million at Christie's in New York.
"Benefits Supervisor Sleeping," by British artist Lucian Freud, sold for $33.6 million at Christie's in New York.   (AP Photo)
Studies for Self Portrait by British artist Francis Bacon, which was sold last night at Christie's in New York.
"Studies for Self Portrait" by British artist Francis Bacon, which was sold last night at Christie's in New York.   (AP Photo)
This Mark Rothko was the top lot at Christie's in New York last night, selling for $50 million.
This Mark Rothko was the top lot at Christie's in New York last night, selling for $50 million.   (AP Photo)
The saleroom at Christie's in New York, where an auction last night defied the global economic downturn.
The saleroom at Christie's in New York, where an auction last night defied the global economic downturn.   (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Christie's employees take bids by phone for a painting by Mark Rothko last year. The art market continued to defy the global economic downturn in a mega-sale last night.
Christie's employees take bids by phone for a painting by Mark Rothko last year. The art market continued to defy the global economic downturn in a mega-sale last night.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
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