$43.8 Million for Barnett Newman

A monumental 1953 canvas by Barnett Newman fetched $43.8 million at Sotheby’s last night, setting an auction record for the Abstract Expressionist painter.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network were first told last week about saving their pennies for this stellar sale {AK Files 5 May 2013}.

Consigned by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., the 8.5-by-10-foot “Onement VI” was estimated at $30 million to $40 million. Its sale was ensured by an undisclosed third-party guarantee.

Claudia Dwek, deputy chairman of contemporary art in Europe for Sotheby’s, bought the painting for the phone client. The price smashed Newman’s previous auction record of $22.5 million set last May at Christie’s. At least five bidders competed tonight for the work.

Gerhard Richter’s 1968 “Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan)” fetched $37.1 million against the pre-sale estimate of $30 million to $40 million. It set a record for the German artist and was the highest price at auction for a living artist.

The Newman painting has an unusual history. Purchased in 1961 by the Beverly Hills collectors Marcia and Frederick Weisman, in 1990 it was part of an art trove acquired by Contemporary Art Holding Corp., a company formed art dealer Larry Gagosian, newsprint mogul Peter Brant and others.

In 2003, both men were charged with tax evasion related to the one-day transaction which included acquiring 62 works of art, selling 58 works of art, and earning about $17 million in taxable capital gains, according to a civil lawsuit filed against Gagosian and Brant by then-U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Comey in Manhattan.

The Newman was one of four remaining paintings that weren’t sold.

In 2000, Brant sold “Onement VI,” according to the 2004 order of settlement and dismissal of the case. Paul Allen acquired the painting in 2000, according to last night's catalog.