Sotheby's Wednesday sale brought in $17,661,600, reportedly the second highest total for a sale of contemporary art at auction. The house's pre-sale estimate on the sale and another last night was a total of $31 million.
The auction set records for Robert Rauschenberg, Morris Louis, Malcolm Morley, Richard Estes, Ellsworth Kelly, Susan Rothenberg, Joan Mitchell, John Chamberlain and Christo.
Top prices of the evening were $2,035,000 paid for Willem de Kooning's 1953 work Woman (Green) and $1,210,000 for an untitled Jackson Pollack work dating
from 1948. Other strong prices included $814,000 for Rauschenberg's Backwash.
Sixteen of the 114 works on the block failed to sell.
At the Christie's sale, paintings that didn't sell included works by Pollock, de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, Mark Rothko, Frank Stella and Louis. But dealers said that some of these were secondary works or carried unrealistically high reserve prices.
The stars of the auction were two paintings by the British master Francis Bacon. His Figure with 2 Owls, painted in 1963, was knocked down for $1,320,000, and his Study for Portrait of P.L., painted in 1957, went for $858,000. Both prices were within Christie's estimated range.