Andy Warhol’s star portraits sell for $151m

Two Andy Warhol portraits of superstars Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando have sold for more than $151m (€121.2m) at an auction in New York.

Triple Elvis (Ferus Type) sold for $81.9m (€65.75m) and Four Marlons brought in $69.6m (€55.87m) at Christie’s sale of post-war and contemporary art. The 7ft-high pieces were acquired by German casino firm WestSpiel in the 1970s.

Clamdigger, a life-size sculpture created in 1972 by Willem de Kooning, sold for $29.2m (€23.4m), a world auction record for a sculpture by the artist. The bronze piece stood in the entry of the artist’s Long Island studio for about four decades.

Also getting attention was an oversized sculpture of a monkey by the artist Jeff Koons, which sold for $25.9m (€20.8m).

The sale realised $852.9m (€684.7m), thought to be the highest total for any art auction.

Warhol’s Elvis portrait, created in ink and silver paint in 1963, depicts the rock ’n’ roll heart-throb as a cowboy, armed and shooting from the hip. The Brando silkscreen, created three years later, shows the actor on a motorcycle in a black leather jacket, an image that is repeated four times.

Warhol produced a series of 22 images of Elvis. His Double Elvis (Ferus Type) sold for $37m (€29.7m) at Sotheby’s in 2012. Last autumn, his Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) set an auction record for his work when it sold at Sotheby’s for $105.4m (€84.6m).

There is only one other four-times Brando, in the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen. A Double Marlon sold at Christie’s for $32.5m (€26m) in 2008.

The inspiration for de Kooning’s Clamdigger came from the clam diggers the abstract expressionist artist observed on the beach every day.

It was offered for sale by the daughters of Lisa de Kooning, who inherited the sculpture from her father when he died in 1997. She died in 2012.

The auction record for any work by de Kooning is $32.1m (€25.8m) for Untitled VIII, set last year at Christie’s.

Cy Twombly’s Untitled, one of the famous series of Blackboard paintings he made between 1966 and 1971, brought in $69.6m (€55.8m). With their spiralling lines on a dark grey background, the paintings were so named because they resembled the slate of classroom blackboard.

Koons’s stainless steel Balloon Monkey (Orange) is nearly 12ft high and 20ft long, and it looks like an inflated twisted balloon.

Koons became the most expensive living artist last year when his Balloon Dog (Orange) was auctioned for $58.4m (€46.9m).


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