I wondered how that new all-and-only-Clyfford Still museum I blogged about yesterday was financed. Here’s how it seems to work — they’re selling a few of the paintings. Still held his work off the market so successfully that they bring tremendous prices:
The Still painting, “1949-A-No. 1,” shattered the artist’s previous record of $21.3 million, achieved at a Christie’s International sale in 2006. It sold to a telephone bidder, represented by Lisa Dennison, Sotheby’s chairman of North and South America. She won a bidding war against Christopher Eykyn, a New York dealer who had a mobile phone to his ear and his hand covering his mouth.
The work was one of four Stills consigned by the City of Denver that raised a total of $114.1 million for the endowment of the Clyfford Still Museum, which opens in Denver next week. The reclusive artist died in 1980.
Three of the works were completed in the 1940s and one in 1976. The top lot, in deep reds and velvety blacks, more than doubled its presale low estimate of $25 million. During his life, Still sold very little and frequently rejected exhibition opportunities. His will stipulated that the estate be given in its entirety to a U.S. city willing to establish a permanent museum housing his work alone.