Sotheby's auction hits $1-billion mark in sales

Web_photo_Cy Twombly

The untitled oil and crayon-on-canvas from 1968, one of the artist's seminal blackboard works meant to resemble chalk on blackboard, was sold to an anonymous client and exceeded Sotheby's' estimate of a sale price in excess of $60 million.

NEW YORK - An untitled "blackboard" work by Cy Twombly sold for a record-setting $70.5-million (R994m) at Sotheby&39;s on Wednesday, leading the way to a $295m (R4.1-bn) total at the auction house&39;s sale of contemporary and post-war art.

The untitled oil and crayon-on-canvas from 1968, one of the artist&39;s seminal blackboard works meant to resemble chalk on blackboard, was sold to an anonymous client and exceeded Sotheby&39;s&39; estimate of a sale price in excess of $60m.

The Twombly, last auctioned in 1990 when it fetched $3.9m, benefited a foundation with proceeds earmarked for a new facility at a Los Angeles temple.

The auction of 54 works took in a total of $295.85m, drawing whoops and cheers from both clients and Sotheby&39;s staff as the hammer fell on the last lot, following two weeks of steady, if not exactly blockbuster results.

Christie&39;s achieved the second-highest price in art auction history on Monday when it sold Modigliani&39;s "Nu couche" for $170.4m.

Auction officials have stressed that the sales were chiefly assembled over the summer when roiling world stock markets unnerved high-end collectors, who typically attempt to cash in on a boom such as the one which has prevailed for some five years.

Warhol&39;s 1972 "Mao," a large-scale work depicting Chinese leader Mao Zedong reportedly being sold by hedge fund manager Steve Cohen, beat its $40m estimate, fetching $47.5m including commission to nab the evening&39;s second-highest price.

Other highlights included an untitled 1987 work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which was sold by the artist&39;s estate and soared to $8.3m, some four time the pre-sale estimate.

Francis Bacon&39;s "Portrait" fetched $15.7m, in the midst of its estimate range, while Jackson Pollock&39;s "Number 17" sold for $22.9m, just meeting the low estimate.

The sale took Sotheby&39;s over the $1-billion mark for its series of key autumn auctions in the Impressionist, modern, contemporary and post-war art categories.

The autumn auctions wrap up on Thursday with Christie&39;s&39; sale of Impressionist and modern art.