A Rothko Tops Sotheby's Contemporary Auction

A Rothko Tops Sotheby's Contemporary Auction

It was a hard act to follow. Just one day after Christie’s raised $705.9 million from its experimental auction of cherry-picked 20th-century masterworks, Sotheby’s responded with a mainstream evening sale on Tuesday that aimed to remind the art world that there is more than one auction house in New York.

Sotheby’s auction of American-oriented contemporary pieces raised $379.7 million with fees from the 63 lots offered, seven of which failed to sell. The company had predicted a total of $320 million before fees. The total was a marginal improvement on the $364.4 million the company achieved at its equivalent sale last year.

The most expensive of the night’s big-ticket works was a 1954 Mark Rothko abstract, “Untitled (Yellow and Blue),” which had once been owned by the American collectors Paul and Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon. More recently, it had been in the collection of Christie’s owner, François Pinault, who sold it in 2013 to the seller at Sotheby’s.

With its broad band of blue, evoking a sunlit seascape, this unusually uplifting Rothko sold for $46.45 million against a low estimate of $40 million. It was bought by a client on the telephone with Isabelle Paagman, a specialist in Sotheby’s contemporary art department in London.

Read the complete article on The New York Times.