The price, which included buyer’s commission, was more than 10 times the high presale estimate of $30,000. “Warhol’s Mao: one plate” was among over 200 artworks Christie’s was selling from the estate of the actor, who died at 74 last year from prostate cancer.
The blue-faced Mao print went to investment banker Amed Khan, who bested several telephone bidders to acquire his first Warhol.
“I heard about it over the years,” said Khan, about the work. “It’s a remarkable piece of history.” Hopper shot the print twice when he mistook it for the actual Chinese leader, according to Christie’s.
“That was a pleasant surprise,” said Alex Hitz, the trustee of the Hopper estate. “Dennis loved that piece.” The print was No. 144 in an edition of 250, with 50 artist’s proofs.
Another top lot was a Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe that sold for $206,500, far exceeding the presale estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It was No. 120 from an edition of 250, with 26 artist’s proofs.
The auction house sold a smaller group of blue-chip works from the Hopper estate in November 2010 for $12.8 million, with a 1987 Jean-Michel Basquiat mixed-media canvas taking in $5.8 million. Today’s auction had more-affordable artworks, with many surpassing their presale estimates.
“’It’s nice to see the market recognizing Dennis’s acumen as a collector,” Hitz said. “His family is very pleased with the results.”
Other highlights included Marcel Duchamp’s 1963 “A Poster Within a Poster,” which sold for $18,750 to New York collector Larry Warsh, up from a low estimate of $8,000.
Julian Schnabel’s blue watercolor portrait of Hopper, appraised for $1,000 to $1,500, sold for $11,250. An abstract graphite drawing by German artist Gerhard Richter surged past it high estimate of $8,000 to fetch $32,500.
A collage by Bruce Conner, a reclusive artist who died in 2008, fetched $96,100, more than nine times its presale low estimate of $10,000. Another work, featuring 20 fingerprints, went for $18,750, up from the low estimate of $800. Both works were bought by L & M Arts gallery, which specializes in postwar and contemporary masters.
“Conner consciously kept out of the marketplace,” said Brett Gorvy, Christie’s deputy chairman and international co- head of postwar, contemporary art. “Now he is seen as an extraordinary figure, noncommercial, provocative and extremely meticulous.”
Hopper was friends with many of the California artists.
“He was very much part of that underground world,” said Janine Cirincione, executive director of Chelsea’s Friedman Benda gallery. “He got real gems.”
Hopper, who described himself as a “gallery bum,” began collecting in the 1950s. His own photographs were shown at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art last summer.
The actor’s memorabilia, including an “Easy Rider” script with his handwritten notes, and furniture from his Frank Gehry- designed Venice Beach home, will go on the block tomorrow, during the second day of Christie’s “Interiors” auction.
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