Warhol & Wang: The Enduring Allure Of Pop Art

Andy Warhol’s “Coca-Cola [4] Large Coca-Cola” Sold For $35.3 Million At Christie’s In New York This Week

Warhol's Coca Cola sold for $35 million in New York this week; Could Wang's Coca Cola achieve new highs with Chinese collectors in the future?

Warhol's Coca Cola sold for $35 million in New York this week; Could Wang's Coca Cola achieve new highs with Chinese collectors in the future?

This past Tuesday, collectors flocked to Christie’s New York Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art, bidding for works by top pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Louis Bourgeois, Mark Rothko and the star of the auction, Andy Warhol. Bringing in a total of $222.4 million, above its high $214.5 million estimate, and setting six new artist records, the auction indicated that art by blue-chip artists remains broadly recession-proof, and solidifies Warhol’s place at the top of the pop art heap. From the New York Times:

There is no denying this is Warhol’s season. His “Coca-Cola [4] [Large Coca Cola]” had seven bidders competing for it and finally sold to a telephone bidder for more than $10 million above its $25 million high estimate. The price was even more impressive considering that the collector Elizabeth Rea, who was selling it, bought it with her husband Michael at a Christie’s auction in 1983 for $143,000.

It has certainly been an interesting year for Warhol-watchers. This June, the sustained confidence in Warhol seen among Western collectors appears to have rubbed off on bidders in Hong Kong, as a set of 10 Warhol “Mao” screenprints sold at auction there for HK$6.6 million (US$852,000), well over their pre-sale estimate of HK$5 million. An interesting by-product of the enthusiasm among Western collectors for works by Warhol and other major pop artists of the 1960s and 1970s could very well be more interest in pop art by collectors not only in Hong Kong but also mainland China. And, although we’ll have to wait and see on this, more interest in pop art among new Chinese collectors could actually be a very good thing for blue-chip Chinese “Political Pop” artists of the 1990s.

More than any other Chinese Political Pop artist in China, more interest in pop art among Chinese collectors could benefit Wang Guangyi, whose “Great Criticism series” of the past 20 years has made him one of the best-known Chinese contemporary artists. Wang’s popularity among Chinese collectors has already been well established, and his works have proven highly enticing at auctions in Hong Kong as well as mainland China. Comparing the work of Wang — who is, in many ways, “China’s Warhol” — to that of Warhol himself is no real leap. And with Warhol’s “Coca-Cola” taking in tens of millions this week at auction, can we expect to see Wang’s “Coca-Cola” doing the same in coming years?

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Art & Auction, Culture