An almost 7-foot-tall Andy Warhol painting of a glass Coca-Cola bottle sold for $35.4 million Tuesday at Sotheby’s in New York.
Only a day earlier, rival auction house Phillips de Pury & Co. sold a 1962 Warhol, with repeating grainy images of Elizabeth Taylor, for $63 million.
The Coke painting was also created in 1962. The seller, curator and artist Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, acquired the piece for $143,000 at Christie’s in 1983.
The sale on Tuesday of 54 works – 91 per cent of which found buyers – totalled $222.4 million including commissions, beating the high pre-sale estimate of $214 million.
Five artists set auction records as collectors continued vying for works in the post-war art sector, an increasingly sought after sector of the art world.
“In this new market, it was a huge success,” said Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s worldwide head of contemporary art, who also served as auctioneer.
It was the fourth successful sale in two weeks for Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips de Pury & Co.
After a precipitous decline following the 2008 financial crisis, the art market has made a solid recovery in 2010, driven in part by a huge infusion of new collectors abroad with fortunes newly forged in oil, gas and gold.
Led by Warhol’s “Coca-Cola (4) (Large Coca-Cola),” which far surpassed the high estimate of $25 million, the sale was more evidence of the growing appetite for post-war works.
The market for such works, along with contemporary art, has in recent years challenged and sometimes eclipsed the demand for earlier Impressionist and “modern” auction categories.
“What’s happening is that people have been moving into this market from the Impressionist market. … It’s become one market,” said Mr Meyer.
Prices commanded by Warhols had put the pop artist in the same league as Matisse and Picasso, he added.
On Monday, Warhol’s “Men in Her Life,” a multi-image depiction of Elizabeth Taylor, soared to $63.4 million at Phillips.
“It’s a global, 20th-century iconic market,” Mr Meyer said.
Other highlights included a pair of works by Gerhard Richter that fetched $13.23 million and $11.3 million, and Francis Bacon’s “Figure in Movement,” which sold for $14 million. Each more than doubled the low estimate.