‘Artists for Haiti’ Auction Raises $13.7 Million

Ben Stiller and David Zwirner’s Artists for Haiti mega-auction was all that and a Nate Lowman flag cake (a late entrant to the sale, the 2011 canvas “Birthday Cake Painting #2” sold for $140,000, a new auction record for the artist). Christie’s waived all fees and commissions for the charity sale, which raised $13.7 million that will go directly to selected charities in Haiti. “We far exceeded the $7.5-$10.5 million pre-sale estimates, which is no small feat in these uncertain times,” wrote Zwirner in an e-mail following the Thursday evening sale of 27 works, many of which were created for Artists for Haiti. “With thousands of schools still waiting to be built, we are confident that the great results of the auction will truly make a difference.”

Frenzied bidding also resulted in new auction records for artists Adel Abdessemed ($350,000), Raymond Pettibon ($820,000), and Glenn Ligon, whose 2011 painting-cum-text “Stranger #44” was snapped up by Jennifer Aniston for $450,000, more than twice its high estimate. Stiller himself scooped up three lots: the aforementioned Lowman, Martin Kippenberger’s “Kippenblinky” (1991), and Jeff Koons’ 2001-2011 “Bikini (Desert),” a disembodied, stainless steel swimsuit bottom silkscreened with dueling landscapes. Fetching the top price of the evening—$2 million—was “My moeder voor sy my moeder was (My mother before she became my mother),” a 2010 painting (pictured) by Marlene Dumas. In the auction catalogue, the South African-born, Amsterdam-based artist recalls her recent conversation about mothers with a girl of Haitian descent. Obeying her own late mother’s wish not to paint her at an advanced age, Dumas based the portrait on an old photo. “It is an homage to a good spirit,” she notes. “A spirit that makes you smile.”

(Photo courtesy David Zwirner)