$75 Million Rothko Leads Boffo Art Sales

Art sales in New York came roaring back last night from last week’s apparently temporarily dip: Sotheby’s staged the biggest auction in its 268-year history, led by a $75 million Mark Rothko — “No. 1 (Royal, Red, and Blue)” — and a record-setting $40 million work by Jackson Pollock at its post-war and contemporary art sale. With an impressive total of $375 million, the auction showed the buoyancy of an art market that has mostly been on a roll since its quick recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. (Of course: The super-rich have to spend their pocket change somewhere!) Sotheby’s said it was the best result it ever had for a single auction, and it beat the high pre-sale estimate. A “screaming pope” piece by Francis Bacon sold for nearly $30 million. A Willem de Kooning fetched just under $20 million and a $17.4 million Gerhard Richter augmented the muscular results for the vibrant Rothko masterpiece and Pollock’s seminal drip painting, “Number 4, 1951.”

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