The quality, scope and innovative vision of the late author Michael Crichton’s collection of contemporary art compelled buyers at Christie’s on May 11. The focal point of the sale was Jasper Johns’ Flag, 1960-1966, selling for $28,642,500 million (£19,476,900/€ 22,627,575) (estimate: $10 million-$15 million), the highest price ever achieved for a work by Johns at auction. The collection realized $93,323,500 (£63,459,980/€ 73,725,565) and sold 100% by lot and by value, becoming one of the most significant.
Four bidders vied for the flag which took two minutes to sell ending at 6:55 pm. The winning bidder was a member of the U.S. art trade. Completed by Johns in 1966, the work, executed in encaustic, was purchased by Crichton over thirty years ago from the artist’s own collection. It was last seen in public in 1992 and was a key piece in the comprehensive and prized collection cultivated by the best-selling author of Jurassic Park. Johns’ iconic American flag are credited with jumpstarting the Pop art movement; paving the way for the avant garde works of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in the mid 1960’s. The previous record was for Johns’ Figure 4, 1959, encaustic and printed paper collage on canvas, sold at Christie’s in May 2005 for $17.4.
Another record was set for Mark Tansey’s Push/Pull, 2003, sold for $3, 28300 (?2,188,580/ € 2,542,615) (estimate $800,000 to $1.2 million). The previous record for a Tansey was $3,040,000.
Further highlights included Ed Ruscha’s Voltage, 1964 that sold for $1,650,500 (?776,900/ € 902,575) (estimate $700,000 to $1 million), Robert Rauschenberg’s Trapeze, 1964 which went for $6,354,500 (? 4,321,060/€ 5,020,055) (estimate $5 million to $7 million) and Andy Warhol’s Mao, 1973 that sold for $2,378,500 (? 1,617,380/ € 1,879,015).