Sotheby’s sells Mark Rothko painting for $75 million, Jackson Pollock goes for record $40.4 million

By Daniel S Levine,

Sotheby’s had another record-setting contemporary art auction in New York Tuesday night. The sale included a Mark Rothko painting that went for $75 million and a Jackson Pollock piece that set a new record for the abstract artist’s work.

According to The New York Times, 58 of the 69 pieces sold went for a combined $375 million, the highest total ever for a contemporary art sale. If you adjust it for inflation, though, it is just behind a May 2008 sale that totaled $362 million.

Pollock’s Number 4, 1951 was the first star of the night, selling for $40.4 million. That broke the previous record for a Pollock, which was set in May when Christie’s sold Number 28, 1951 for $23.04 million.

“It’s a great Pollock,” art dealer Dorothea Elkon told Businessweek about the painting, which was consigned by Sidney Kohl. “I can’t tell you how many collectors have asked me over the years if Sidney would sell it. He simply didn’t want to.”

Franz Kline’s Shenandoah from 1965 went for $9.32 million, setting a record for a Kline work. His 1958 Crow Dancer had set the previous record when it was sold by Christie’s for $6.4 million in 2005.

However, Rothko’s No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue) soon took the spotlight, selling for an astonishing $75.1 million. Still, that didn’t quite reach Rothko’s record of $86.9 million, set in May when Christie’s sold Orange, red, yellow for that price.

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