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Christie's auction brings record prices for 6 artists

Published Sep. 4, 2005

Auction records were set for works by six artists at a Christie's sale of postwar and contemporary art, including one painting that had recently been exhibited in two major museums.

Records were set last week for Roy Lichtenstein, Barnett Newman, David Hockney, Morris Louis, Dan Flavin and Laura Owens.

The auction Wednesday totaled $66.9-million; of the 75 works put up for auction, 13 failed to sell. Christie's attributed the prices to "fierce competition . . . for important works."

The highest price of the evening, but not a record, went for a Jasper Johns painting, which led a group of nine works from the collection of the Israel Phoenix Assurance Co. assembled in the early 1980s. 0 Through 9 sold for $9.9-million to a telephone bidder. The 1961 painting shows the numerals superimposed in a range of grays.

Newman's White Fire I, which this year had been exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Tate Modern in London, set a record when it sold for $3.8-million to an anonymous telephone bidder. The painting, also from the Israel Phoenix collection, has an aqua background with a wide, pale beige band and a bleeding blue stripe.

Lichtenstein's Happy Tears set a record for the artist when it sold for $7.1-million.

Other artists' records: an untitled work by Louis from 1959-60 went for $1.6-million; Hockney's Portrait of Nick Wilder brought $2.8-million; Flavin's Alternate Diagonals sold for $405,000; and a 1995 untitled piece by Owens went for $47,800.

A 1967 work by Andy Warhol, Big Electric Chair, went for $4.9-million, but a 1986 Warhol, Camouflage Last Supper, went unsold.

All prices include Christie's commission, which includes 19.5 percent on the first $100,000 and 10 percent on the rest.