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2 Warhol works fetch $151.5 million in New York auction

The Associated Press
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In this Oct. 14, 2014, file photo, Christie's employees stand near two Andy Warhol portraits, 'Triple Elvis,' left, and 'Four Marlons' at the offices of the auction house in London.

NEW YORK — Extremely rare portraits by Andy Warhol of Hollywood superstars Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando were among the highlights at a record-breaking auction of postwar and contemporary art on Wednesday.

Warhol’s “Triple Elvis (Ferus Type)” sold for $81.9 million and “Four Marlons” brought in $69.6 million at Christie’s, which said the evening sale realized $852.9 million, the highest total for any auction.

Works by Willem de Kooning and Cy Twombly also broke auction records for the artists.

“Triple Elvis” and “Four Marlons” rate among Warhol’s most famous portraits. The nearly 7-foot-high portraits were acquired by German casino company WestSpiel in the 1970s for one of its casinos.

The Elvis, executed in ink and silver paint in 1963, depicts the rock ‘n’ roll heartthrob as a cowboy, armed and shooting from the hip. The Brando silkscreen, created three years later, shows the actor on a motorcycle in a black leather jacket, an image that is repeated four times.

Warhol produced a series of 22 images of Elvis. His “Double Elvis (Ferus Type)” sold for $37 million at Sotheby’s in 2012.

Last fall, his “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)” set an auction record for his work when it sold at Sotheby’s for $105.4 million.

There’s only one other four-times Brando, in the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen. A “Double Marlon” sold at Christie’s for $32.5 million in 2008.

De Kooning’s “Clamdigger,” a life-size sculpture created in 1972, sold for $29.2 million, a world auction record for a sculpture by the artist. The bronze sculpture never left the artist, and it stood in the entry of his studio on eastern Long Island for about four decades.

The inspiration for it came from the clam diggers the abstract expressionist artist observed on the beach every day.

“Clamdiggers” was offered for sale by the daughters of Lisa de Kooning, who inherited the sculpture from her father when he died in 1997. She died in 2012.

The auction record for any work by de Kooning is $32.1 million for “Untitled VIII,” set last year at Christie’s.

Twombly’s “Untitled,” one of the famous series of “Blackboard” paintings he made between 1966 and 1971, brought in $69.6 million, a world auction record for his work. With their spiraling lines on a dark gray background, the paintings were so-named because they resembled the slate of classroom blackboard.

An oversized sculpture of a monkey by the popular artist Jeff Koons was another auction highlight.

Koons’ whimsical stainless steel “Balloon Monkey (Orange)” fetched $25.9 million. Measuring nearly 12 feet high and 20 feet long, it looks like an inflated twisted balloon.

Koons became the most expensive living artist last year when his “Balloon Dog (Orange)” was auctioned for $58.4 million. A retrospective of his work recently closed at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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