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Baltimore Museum of Art earns millions from auction of works by Andy Warhol, other masters

The Baltimore Museum of Art auctioned off five paintings by Andy Warhol and other modern masters at Sotheby’s this week for nearly $8 million.

The five artworks — one each by Warhol, Franz Kline and Jules Olitski and two by Kenneth Noland — were sold at auctions held Wednesday night and Thursday morning in New York for a total hammer price of $7.93 million, according to a museum spokeswoman.

The BMA, which previously owned the paintings, will use the funds to purchase artworks created since 1943 by women and artists of color in an effort to improve diversity in its collection. All the works being auctioned were created by white men.

“We are very pleased with the auction results at Sotheby’s,” BMA Director Christopher Bedford wrote in an email, adding that the proceeds will enable the BMA to build “a collection that reflects our commitment to excellence, diversity, historical accuracy, and social justice.”

Most of the paintings that sold at the auction fell within the pre-sales estimates, with the exception of Kline’s “Green Cross,” considered the crown jewel of the lot.

Sotheby’s had speculated it would fetch between $6 million and $8 million; it sold for a hammer price of $4.4 million. The buyer’s premium added by Sotheby’s brought the total sale price to $5,195,600.

The other top-dollar artwork was Warhol’s “Oxidation Painting” from 1978, which was expected to bring in between $2 million and $3 million. It fetched a hammer price of $2.8 million, and the buyer’s premium brought the total sale price to $3.375 million.

The other artworks owned by the BMA sold for the following amounts:

  • Noland’s “Lapis Lazuli” — pre-auction estimate: $400,000 to $600,000; hammer price: $500,000; total sales price including buyer’s premium: $615,000.
  • Noland’s “In-Vital” — pre-auction estimate: $150,000 to $200,000; hammer price: $190,000; total sales price including buyer’s premium: $237,500
  • Olitski’s “Before Darkness II” — pre-auction estimate: $20,000 to $30,000; hammer price: $40,000; total sales price, including buyer’s premium: $50,000.

Sotheby’s also is selling two other very large artworks owned by the BMA — Warhol’s “Hearts” and Robert Rauschenberg’s “Bank Job.”

The auction house has a year to find buyers for these two artworks through private sales, and those proceeds are likely to significantly swell the museum’s fund for new purchases.

Bedford wrote in the email that he already has submitted several potential acquisitons of contemporary artworks to the BMA’s board of trustees. The board is expected to approve the purchases at its June meeting.

“This is just the beginning,” Bedford wrote. “The funds raised through [the Sotheby’s] sales will give us ample opportunity to strengthen and diversify the museum’s collection in the years to come.”

mmccauley@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mcmccauley

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