Maurizio Cattelan (B. 1960). Him. wax, human hair, suit, polyester resin. Executed in 2001. This work is the artist's proof from an edition of three plus one artist's proof © Maurizio Cattelan.
Christie’s kicked off the spring auction season in New York last evening (8 May) with Bound to Fail, a curated sale that set seven new artist records, including a new high for Maurizio Cattelan whose statue of Adolf Hitler, Him, sold for $17.2m with premium. Despite the sale’s title, only one of the 39 lots on offer failed to sell. The work by Cattelan was the highest-selling lot of the evening as well as the last one. Bidding was healthy over the five minutes it took to attain its $15.2m hammer price, with four phone bidders and Philippe Segalot bidding for a client on his mobile.
Other artist records were established for Paola Pivi, Neil Jenney, Olivier Mosset, Daniel Buren, Rebecca Horn and John Armleder: all greats of their eras, overdue for such financial praise. In all, only eight of the sold lots failed to go for within or above estimate. But with the $78.1m sale total (including premium) falling at the lower end of the $59.3m to $81m pre-sale total estimate (excluding premium), the evening was not the runaway success that the records and sell-through rate might suggest.
Ten of the lots had only one bidder. David Hammons' Stone Head (2005), for example, hammered around its low estimate for $850,000 with just two bidders: Robert Mnuchin (who placed the lot in the sale from the current Hammons show at his gallery) and Loic Gouzer, Christie's deputy chairman of post-war and contemporary art in New York, who organised the sale. Still, the house seemed to make money, and for a Sunday afternoon the sale was well attended. “Loic is one of my good friends so I'm here to support him,” the socialite Paris Hilton said after the sale. “I love him. I think he's an amazing man. I'm really proud of him today.”