Cy Twombly ‘blackboard’ work sells for $30 million at Christie’s auction

A Christie's employee looks at an untitled work by Cy Twombly in London last week. On Wednesday, the piece sold for about $30 million.
(Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images)

An abstract work by Cy Twombly brought in about $30 million Wednesday at a Christie’s auction in London, where it was the top-selling item in a sale of postwar and contemporary art that realized a total of $178.4 million.

The untitled Twombly work is believed to date from 1970 and sold in 2012 for $17.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York. The piece is one of Twombly’s “blackboard” creations, called that for their resemblance to scribblings on a chalkboard. To create the work, the artist actually used house paint and wax crayon on canvas.

Bloomberg, citing two unnamed sources, reported that the piece was sold by Leonard Riggio, founder and chairman of Barnes & Noble.

The amount realized for the Twombly, including the buyer’s premium, isn’t an auction record for the late American artist. Another of his blackboard creations brought in $69.6 million at a Christie’s auction in November. Twombly died in 2011 at 83.

The auction house said that it offered a guaranteed selling price for the Twombly work that sold Wednesday. The practice has become a common one for major auction houses as they compete for big-ticket items from the world’s most prominent collectors.


Also in Wednesday’s sale, a 1969 work by Gerhard Richter depicting Lake Lucerne brought in $24 million, while a Francis Bacon piece from 1955 titled “Study for a Head” went for $15.3 million.

The total auction amount of $178.4 million was less than a Sotheby’s auction of contemporary art earlier this week in London that brought in $188.2 million.

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