Warhol Self-Portrait Sells for $32.5m

Alate self-portrait by “pope of pop” Andy Warhol sold for a record US$32.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York on Wednesday, underlining the return of big spenders to the international art market.

The stark 1986 image of Warhol’s famous face and unkempt hair was estimated to sell at between $10-15 million at the contemporary art auction.

The huge final sale value was in line with the strong demand for Warhols shown at the spring contemporary art auction at rival Christie’s in Manhattan on Tuesday.

The Sotheby’s sale was the highest price paid for a self-portrait by the iconoclastic artist, who died a year after the work was completed.

According to the auctions giant, this final self-portrait by Warhol captures his “attitude toward presenting his outer-self, tempting us with the thought that he might finally let us glimpse his most intimate inner-self.”

Ninety-four percent of lots at Sotheby’s found buyers, totalling just under $190 million in sales, following a healthy performance for contemporary art at Christie’s the previous day.

Another big seller at Sotheby’s was Mark Rothko’s untitled abstract canvas dominated by the colour red, which sold for $31.4 million, up from pre-sale estimates of $18-25 million.

A portrait of a saxophonist by Jean-Michel Basquiat – Untitled (Stardust) – sold for a whopping $7.25 million, compared to the $1.8-2.5-million estimate.

Another Warhol, Flowers, sold for $7.6 million, beating the estimate of $5-7 million.

Jackson Pollock’s Number 12A, 1948: Yellow, Gray, Black, sold for $8.8 million, double the estimate.

The painting was featured in a famous 1949 Life magazine article titled “Jackson Pollock: Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?”

Last week at Christie’s, a 1932 painting by Pablo Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, set the world record for an art auction at $106.5 million.

This snapped the record set just in February in London of $104.3 million for Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man I sculpture and confirmed a return of the bulls to a luxury market laid low by the 2008 global financial crisis.

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