Tommy Hilfiger Buys Hirst at Phillips de Pury $71 Million Sale

"Untitled" (2006) by Cy Twombly. Courtesy: Phillips de Pury via Bloomberg

Cy Twombly’s untitled acrylic-on-canvas featuring three rows of dripping red loops sold for $9 million at Phillips de Pury & Co. in New York last night, the late artist’s second-highest price at auction.

The standing-room-only sale of postwar and contemporary art totaled $71.3 million, with the priciest pieces, including the Twombly, going to telephone bidders. Among those in the room were Los Angeles billionaire collector Eli Broad, Oleg Baibakov, a former MMC Norilsk Nickel executive, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, and Michael Dell’s money manager, Glenn Fuhrman.

Hilfiger acquired Damien Hirst’s “Disintegration -- The Crown of Life” (2006) for $1.4 million. The butterfly canvas resembles an arched stained-glass window from a Gothic cathedral.

“They had good material,” said Chicago-based collector Stefan Edlis. “It’s the first of the sales and people haven’t spent their money.”

Phillips, which is owned by the Russian retailer Mercury Group, kicked off a week of contemporary-art auctions. Last night’s event was estimated to tally between $66.2 million and $97.4 million. Only seven lots failed to sell.

Richard Prince’s sultry, red-hued painting “Runaway Nurse” (2006) fetched $6.8 million, near its high estimate of $7 million.

Art dealer David Nahmad bought a 9-foot sculpture by Alexander Calder titled “Trepied” (1972) for $5.7 million, splitting the presale estimate of $5 million to $7 million.

Emerging Artists

The auction room saw some excitement at the end of the sale when several hands shot up to bid for emerging artists Jacob Kassay and Sterling Ruby.

Another high point was the charity section benefiting the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Its 22 lots -- with one unsold -- tallied $2.7 million, surpassing the high estimate of $2.2 million. The results include buyers’ premium; the estimates do not.

Painted in the autumn of 2006 in Twombly’s hometown of Lexington, Virginia, the red-loops painting was one of 18 works guaranteed by third parties.

“Guarantees are the equivalent of steroids -- it’s a performance-enhancing product,” said Todd Levin, director of Levin Art Group. “The job of the guarantee is to help auctions perform better.”

Third-party guarantees have “become an industry standard,” said Michael McGinnis, Phillips’s worldwide director of contemporary art. “It adds a layer of sophistication.”

Christie’s International will hold its postwar and contemporary art auction tonight.

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