This month, a contemporary art sale at Christie’s in New York brought in $495 million—the highest total in auction history. The sale included works by Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat, establishing a total of 16 new world auction records, with nine works selling for more than $10 million and 23 for more than $5 million.
The astounding success reflects “a new era in the art market,” according to Brett Gorvy, head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s.
Jackson Pollock’s “Drip Painting Number 19, 1948″ was the top sale, fetching $54.8 million. Pollock’s work, alongside Lichtenstein’s “Woman with Flowered Hat” and Basquiat’s “Dustheads,” set records for the highest prices ever fetched for the artists at auction. Only four of Christie’s 70 lots went unsold.
Steven Murphy, CEO of Christie’s International, said new collectors have helped drive the sales boom.
“Twenty-five percent of our buyers last year were new to Christie’s,” he told Reuters. “And four or five of the key lots tonight went to people who have never bought here before.”
Along with sales that same week by Phillips de Pury & Company and Sotheby’s, nearly $900 million worth of art traded hands during the third week of May in evening sales alone.