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Rothko abstract fetches $11 million at record-breaking Sotheby's sale

'No. 2 (Blue, Red and Green)'
Mark Rothko's 1953 "No. 2 (Blue, Red and Green)" was the top lot in the contemporary art sale at Sotheby's that set records for 12 artists  

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A Mark Rothko abstract painting sold for $11 million at Sotheby's Tuesday, part of a $43 million contemporary art auction that set records for 12 artists, including sculptor Alexander Calder.

Rothko's 1953 work, "No. 2 (Blue, Red and Green)," was the top lot of a mixed-results sale that took in $43,140,900 and saw bidders purchase 81 percent of its lots. The oil on canvas had been expected to sell for $8 million to $10 million.

Calder's "Stegosaurus" fetched the evening's second-highest price. The mammoth red sculpture sold for $4,185,750, breaking the previous record of $3,907,500 for the artist, who is often associated with his mobiles. The piece had a pre-sale estimate of $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

Sotheby's officials proclaimed themselves delighted with the sale, despite the failure of a few high-profile pieces to find buyers.

The sale of Alexander Calder's "Stegosaurus" for $4,185,750 broke the sculptor's previous auction record of $3,907,500  

"I was very thrilled with the results," said auctioneer Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art. "It was a sale that was very much on target" in terms of the estimates, Meyer said.

The auction had been expected to take in $40.7 million to $56.6 million.

Other highlights were two works by the late pop artist Andy Warhol that depicted a pair of favorite subjects he helped turn into pop icons: Marilyn Monroe and the Campbell's Soup can.

'Marilyn' and 'Campbell's Soup'

"Marilyn," a small, round piece from 1962, the same year the movie goddess died, sold for $2,755,750. The lot fetched the auction's third-highest price, eclipsing its high estimate of $2.5 million. "Large Campbell's Soup Can" went for $1,083,750, just making its low estimate of $1 million.

'Large Campbell's Soup Can'
Andy Warhol's "Large Campbell's Soup Can" went for $1,083,750, just above its low estimate of $1 million  

While new records were set for a slew of rising artists, some of the sale's expected highlights failed to find buyers, including Jasper Johns' "Disappearance I," for which bidding topped out at $3.4 million after a $4 million to $6 million estimate.

Another Johns, "Green Map Above White," also did not sell. Francis Bacon's "Study For a Portrait of Clive Barker," estimated at $800,000 to $1.2 million, drew no bids higher than $680,000.

Still, Meyer said, "This contemporary market has a lot of energy in it," as evidenced by the host of records set at the sale.

Besides Calder, new marks were set for Isamu Noguchi, Brice Marden, Robert Gober, Donald Judd and Cy Twombly for a work on paper. Marden's "For Pearl," at $1,875,750, was the sale's fifth-highest price, although it failed to achieve its low estimate.

Records were also broken for Gary Hume, Maurizio Cattelan, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Joan Mitchell, Dan Flavin and Cecily Brown, who had never had a work sold at auction. Her "Twenty Million Sweethearts" was the sale's first lot, and fetched $87,000, more than twice its high estimate of $40,000.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Artchive: Mark Rothko
The Andy Warhol Museum
Calder Foundation: Alexander Calder
MoMA : Jasper Johns: a retrospective
Sotheby's online

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