Christie’s post-war and contemporary art sale in New York Wednesday night brought in a record $412.3 million US ($413 million Cdn) and set records for eight artists, including Franz Kline, Jeff Koons and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

On a day when U.S. stocks dived by more than $240 billion, people seemed to be putting excess capital into art, according to Todd Levin of the Levin Art Group.

The top lot of the evening was Andy Warhol's Statue of Liberty, a 3D silkscreen featuring multiple images of the New York monument. It sold for $43.7 million (all prices in U.S.), surpassing its presale estimate of $35 million.  


Andy Warhol's Statue of Liberty, a 3D silkscreen, sold for $43.7 million US at the Christie's auction. (Christie's)

The work once belonged to German entrepreneur Erich Marx, whose art collection became the core of the Hamburger Bahnhof contemporary art museum in Berlin. It then was sold to the Daros Collection in Zurich before being purchased by a private collector, who consigned it for Wednesday's auction.

Another Warhol, the 1966 portrait of leather-clad Marlon Brando on a motorcycle titled Marlon, went for $23.7 million. The same work had been purchased by a private collector for $5 million at a Christie's auction in 2003.

An untitled 1981 Basquiat painting, depicting a skeletal figure with a halo over his head and a fish in his hand, sold for $26.4 million. Sold by fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier, the piece exceeded the earlier record of $20.1 million for a Basquiat work, set at a Christie’s auction in London in June. 

Jeff Koons’ Tulips, a sculpture by the American artist, sold for $33.7 million, beating his previous record high of $25.8, set in 2008. It was the second highest price ever achieved for work by a living artist.

Other highlights of the Christie’s sale include:

  • Roy Lichtenstein's Nude with Red Shirt - $28.1 million.
  • Mark Rothko's abstract Red Stripe (Orange, Gold and Black) - $23.4 million.
  • An untitled Franz Kline work of black brush strokes on a white background - $40.4 million, four times the previous record for the artist.

"It's amazing that contemporary art has become blue-chip value," said Christie's vice-president Koji Inoue.

"I think we're just seeing the beginning."

One of the few paintings that failed to sell was a 1983 work by German artist Gerhard Richter. Estimated to sell for between $9 million and $12 million, it failed to reach an undisclosed reserve price.