CULTURE MONSTER

Rothko painting fetches $82 million at Christie's auction

Rothko painting 'No. 10' brings in $82 million at Christie's auction in New York

It wasn't an auction record for a Mark Rothko painting, but it was a hefty sum nonetheless.

A 1958 Rothko canvas titled "No. 10" fetched $81.9 million at a Christie's auction in New York on Thursday.  The sum fell shy of the $86.9 million realized in 2012 for the artist's "Orange, Red, Yellow," which still stands as an auction record for the late abstract expressionist artist.

"No. 10" depicts brown hues against black in Rothko's signature style of vertically oriented color blocks. Christie's didn't identify the buyer or seller, but said the painting came from a private American collection.

Other notable Rothko sales in recent years include the $72.8 million paid for the artist's painting "White Center" in 2007 by the royal family of Qatar. 

At Wednesday's auction, a Lucian Freud painting brought in $56.2 million, slightly exceeding estimates. "Benefits Super Resting," which dates from 1994, depicts a massively overweight female seated on a sofa. 

The auction house said it offered guaranteed minimum selling prices for both the Rothko and the Freud paintings. Minimum selling prices have become fairly common practice among top auction houses as a way of attracting prominent clients. 

But some industry experts say that the guarantee can eat away at profit margins, and potentially hurt the company's bottom line.

In all, the Christie's auction of post-war and contemporary art on Wednesday featured 85 items and brought in $658.5 million. The sum includes buyers' premiums, which the auction house tacks on to the hammer prices.

For the week, the auction house has realized more than $1 billion in art sales.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 

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