A painting by Cy Twombly from the collection of billionaire Ron Perelman led a $340.9 million auction at Christie’s, an off-season event that was live-streamed from New York Tuesday.
But the real surprise of the evening sale of 20th century art came at the very end. It wasn’t a painting, drawing or sculpture, but rather a 67-million-year-old fossil. Tyrannosaurus Rex Stan, named after the paleontologist who discovered it in 1987, fetched $31.8 million, almost four times the high estimate and beating all but two lots.
Sold by the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota, where it had been displayed and studied for the past two decades, Stan is 13-feet tall and 40-feet long. It’s one of the largest and most complete T. Rex skeletons known to exist, according to Christie’s. The previous auction record for a T. Rex was $8.4 million in 1997. At least five bidders chased after Stan, and it was purchased by an anonymous buyer, whose identity may be revealed in the coming days, Christie’s said.
“We are being innovative,” said Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of the 20th and 21st centuries department, about the company’s decision to include a dinosaur in the art sale and conduct the event ahead of the U.S. election and potential second wave of Covid-19 cases. “It worked.”
Twombly’s “Untitled (Bolsena),” which sold for $38.7 million after being estimated at $35 million to $50 million was among at least 11 works from Perelman’s collection slated for auction on Tuesday at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Together, they targeted $141 million to $208 million. The result was $145.4 million, including the fees charged by auction houses.
At Christie’s, two Perelman pieces — by Henri Matisse and Brice Marden — were withdrawn before the sale, often a sign of a lack of interest. Bidding was tepid for his works by Mark Rothko ($31.3 million) and Willem de Kooning ($23.3 million).
Perelman’s Gerhard Richter at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong generated more excitement, selling for almost $28 million earlier Tuesday, well exceeding the high estimate of $18 million. It was the highest price achieved for any Western artwork sold at auction in Asia, Sotheby’s said. The buyer was a museum in Japan.
Art sales are part of a larger divestment by Perelman, who has recently disposed of several companies and put a private jet on the market.
Since July, the Revlon Inc. owner has sold more than $200 million of art from his collection, both privately and at auction. He will use some of the proceeds from the sales to pay down loans from Citigroup Inc., people with knowledge of the arrangements have said.
Perelman’s investment company, MacAndrews & Forbes, said in July it was reworking its holdings in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the ravages it caused to American businesses, including his own. The 77-year-old said in a statement last month that the time had come for him “to clean house, simplify and give others the chance to enjoy some of the beautiful things that I’ve acquired just as I have for decades.”
Representatives for Perelman, who is selling anonymously, Christie’s and Sotheby’s declined to comment.
The works have given a major boost to auction houses in what has been a difficult year for the art market. The global pandemic dramatically reduced the volume of sales, cancelled live events and upended the decades-old calendar and formats.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)