had attracted interest
from many potential bidders above the $40 million level.” Dating from the pivotal year of 1950, White
Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) is the first fully-realized painting of Mark Rothko’s mature style –
the canvas with which Rothko succeeded in articulating the painterly dialectic that he would maintain
throughout the remaining decades of his career. The masterpiece had been acquired by David Rockefeller
in 1960, at the recommendation of Dorothy Miller, the first chief curator at the Museum of Modern Art.
He purchased it from Elizabeth Bliss Parkinson, niece of Miss Lillie P. Bliss, one of the three founders of
MoMA in 1929 along with Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., through the Sidney
Janis Gallery, one of the premier New York dealers of mid-century American and European art.
Mr. Rockefeller attended the evening sale and commented afterwards, “I am very pleased that it did so
well. I have enjoyed living with it for 47 years. I am sorry to see it go, but I hope the next owner enjoys it
as much as I have.”
Another highlight of the sale was a striking masterpiece by Francis Bacon, Study from Innocent X, which
sold for $52,680,000, a record for the artist at auction. Executed in 1962, Study from Innocent X comes from
a series of paintings, the most important in Bacon’s oeuvre, based on Spanish artist Diego Velázquez’s
Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650. Study from Innocent X, which comes from a Private Collection, was acquired
by the present owner over thirty years ago. The painting, which had never before appeared at auction, was
estimated to sell for in excess of $30 million.
The May sale also featured an Untitled masterpiece by Jean-Michel Basquiat from his early graffiti period,
painted in the seminal year of 1981, which sold for $14,600,000, a record for the artist at auction, to a
dealer on behalf of a private collector. Dazzling in its execution, Untitled is an extraordinary work from the
year when the artist first began to emerge as an enfant terrible of the downtown art scene in Manhattan. The
painting, the most important and desirable work by Basquiat to appear at auction in recent memory, was
gifted to The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, in 1985 by Barbara and Eugene Schwartz, New York, and was
one of two major Basquiats from this period in the Museum’s collection. It was being sold by the
Museum to create the Barbara and Eugene Schwartz Contemporary Art Acquisition Endowment Fund
and was estimated to sell for $6/8 million.
One of Robert Rauschenberg’s Combine Paintings, the masterpiece Photograph from 1959, brought
$10,680,000, a record for the artist at auction, selling to a dealer on behalf of a private collector. As with
his other Combine Paintings, Photograph vibrates with an intellectual vigor that opens our eyes to the chaotic
beauty in the lives we live (est. $10/15 million).
The sale also featured ten works of Contemporary Art from the Estate