Rothko leads Christie's pace

Christie's New York auction house kicked off a week of post-war and contemporary art sales Tuesday night with a $62-million auction that set records for 11 artists. An untitled 1963 painting by Mark Rothko commanded the top price of $7.1 million. Next came a 1968 sculpture by Alexander Calder, at a record $5.8 million.

Much of the excitement came from the sale of 10 works collected by the late Dorothy C. Miller, a pioneering curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Collectors and dealers snapped up every piece, paying a total of $9.9 million. The top item was Jasper Johns' painting "Gray Numbers, 1957," which fetched $5.2 million.

Record prices for works by sculptor Lee Bontecou and painter Philip Guston probably can be attributed to their critically acclaimed traveling retrospective exhibitions currently on view.

A small, signature 1960 canvas and steel relief by Bontecou -- whose show is at the UCLA Hammer Museum -- was sold for $298,700, about six times the estimated price. A 1953 drawing by Guston -- whose retrospective is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York -- brought $242,700, more than doubling the estimates.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

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