$10m for Peter Doig painting in New York

Yesterday's sale of post-war and contemporary art, held by Christie's in New York, produced some extremely impressive sales. The lots included works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Philip Guston from the John Cage and Merce Cunningham collection.

The work which dominated the auction however was Scottish painter Peter Doig's masterpiece Reflection (What does your soul look like). The 1996 oil on canvas work depicts the full, near life-size reflection of a figure in a pond (mostly red on green) whose legs only are visible.

Peter Doig's Reflection Soul
Peter Doig's Reflection

Recognised as one of Doig's key works, the piece was already expected to sell for $4m-6m, but some bidders had come in a determined mood and deep pockets; the work eventually achieving a stunning $10.2m.

One of Doig's works recently sold for $1.39m in London. But this did not beat its estimate, possibly suggesting an increase in confidence in the art market in the last month.

Very different works by Jasper Johns and Alexander Calder also far exceeded their estimates.

Jasper Johns Dancers on a Plane
Jasper Johns's Dancers on a Plane

Johns's Dancers on a Plane is an artistic response to Merce Cunningham and his company of dancers, as well as a depiction of Hindu gods Shakti and Shiva copulating. There are various sexual and dancing themes in the 1980 oil on canvas. It easily doubled its top valuation of $2m to sell for $4.3m.

The Rauschenberg and Guston works also did well, such that the six works from Cage and Cunningham sold for a total of $7.1mm

Calder's Untitled sheet metal and wire mobile, created in the 1950s, is an excellent example of his ability to utilise colour, shape and motion and easily outclassed its listing of $1-1.5m to sell for $3.6m.

Works by Joan Mitchell and Jeff Koons also achieved their hefty estimates, selling at $5.5m and $5.7m respectively.

Excitingly, Untitled 1980s works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Brice Marden broke records.

Basquiat's oilstick and masking tape work sold for $3.1m - a world record for a drawing by the artist. The frantic, colourful work, scrawled, etched and slashed into the paper is a classic of its kind.

Marden's work, far exceeding its higher listing of $1.2m to sell at $2m, shows tangled yet controlled columns of greens trickling down the page. No work on paper by the artist has sold for more.

A very strong performance by high-end artworks, with more results expected from today's auction.

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