Twombly Canvas Smashes Record

NEW YORK CITY -- A canvas by the American Abstractionist Cy Twombly has set a $70.5 million auction record for the artist last night.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are witnessing huge tallies at the November auctions.

The "blackboard" painting, Untitled (New York City), 1968, was the highpoint of the Contemporary evening sale at Sotheby’s, which also saw records smashed for artists such as Mike Kelley. The sale total totaled $254–$313.7 million with 44 of 54 works, 82%, finding buyers.

The second-highest lot sold in Wednesday's sale was an Andy Warhol Mao (1972) canvas, This was one of the earliest portraits of the Chinese Little Red Book leader. The painting, a silkscreen on canvas, sold for $47.5 million, topping the $40-million pre-sale estimate.

The work was produced after Richard Nixon's historic visit to China. Measuring just under seven feet high, it depicts the Communist leader, appropriated from his official State portrait. The painting was last under the hammer in 1996, when it realized just $1 million. Other highlights of the evening were works by Bacon, Pollock, Fontana, and Basquiat.

This sale came fast on the heals of the Contemporary Art sale at Christie's New York where $332-million was fetched on the block. Another Warhol painting under performed there realizing $26 million, and falling short of its estimate.

Amedeo Modigliani's Nu Couché (Reclining Nude), 1917–18, became the second-priciest lot in auction history at $170.4 million.

Twombly's paintings of large-scale, freely scribbled, calligraphic and graffiti-like works on solid fields of mostly gray, tan, or off-white colors are in the permanent collections of most of the museums of modern art around the world, including the Menil Collection in Houston, the Tate Modern in London or the New York's Museum of Modern Art. He was also commissioned for the ceiling of a room of the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Arranged by Motherwell, Twombly's first solo exhibition was organized by the Samuel M. Kootz Gallery in New York in 1951. At this time his work was influenced by Kline's black-and-white gestural expressionism, as well as Paul Klee's imagery.

In 1952, Twombly received a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts which enabled him to travel to North Africa, Spain, Italy, and France. He spent this journey in Africa and Europe with Robert Rauschenberg.

In 1954, he served in the U.S. Army as a cryptographer in Washington, D.C. and would frequently travel to New York during periods of leave. The cryptography background would influence Twombly's work during his entire lifetime.

Many of his later paintings and works on paper shifted toward "romantic symbolism", and their titles can be interpreted visually through shapes and forms and words. Twombly often quoted the poets as Stéphane Mallarmé, Rainer Maria Rilke, John Keats..., as well as many classical myths and allegories in his works. Examples of this are his Apollo and The Artist and a series of eight drawings consisting solely of inscriptions of the word "VIRGIL".

Christie's Impressionist and modern art auction will complete the Autumn auction season tonight.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video explores Twombly's 'blackboard' masterpiece sold last night at Sotheby's.