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The 350,000 Percent Rise of Christopher Wool's Masterpiece Painting

One work’s 350,000 percent rise through the booming art market
The 350,000 Percent Rise of Christopher Wool's Masterpiece Painting
Illustration by Aisha Franz

Art dealer Christophe Van de Weghe strode into Christie’s auction house in New York with orders from a mystery client. His mission that night, Nov. 12, 2013, was to buy a specific painting—for which the client was willing to pay an astonishingly high price. “He gave me a number, and he had me bid on it,” Van de Weghe recalls. “He really wanted to have it.” The work was called Apocalypse Now.

By the end of the night, the auction at Rockefeller Center would make history many times over. As auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen’s hammer fell on lot after lot, the figures posted on the screen behind him were as eyepopping as the works on display. A Francis Bacon triptych set an auction record for any artwork, at $142.4 million. Jeff Koons’s sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange), at $58.4 million, set a high mark for a living artist. An Andy Warhol picture of a Coca-Cola bottle sold for $57.3 million, pushing the overall take that night to $692 million, at the time the biggest single sale of art ever.