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An art auction shoots the moon

May 14, 2004|Suzanne Muchnic

Contemporary art dealers and collectors snapped up every last item in a $65.5-million auction Wednesday night at Sotheby's New York. The sale didn't have as much high-end material as Christie's $102.1-million auction the previous night, but it exceeded Sotheby's most optimistic expectations and set records for 17 artists.

"Not everything is a masterpiece," auctioneer Tobias Meyer said after the sale. "The depth of bidding on everything tonight tells you something about the strength of the market."

"Step-On Can With Leg," a 1961 painting by Roy Lichtenstein based on an ad for a wastebasket, was sold for $5.1 million, the sale's top price. Jasper Johns' "Corpse and Mirror," a small crosshatched abstraction on paper made in 1975-76, brought $3.1 million.

Unorthodox works by younger artists such as Maurizio Cattelan also sparked keen competition. His sculpture "The Ballad of Trotsky," a taxidermic horse suspended from the ceiling by pulleys, was valued at $600,000 to $800,000, but it fetched $2 million.

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Suzanne Muchnic

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