Jasper Johns American flag painting sells for $36 million on Veterans Day

Johns' previous auction record was for an earlier flag painting sold in 2010 for $28.6 million.
By Matt Bradwell  |  Nov. 12, 2014 at 5:32 PM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- World renowned American artist Jasper Johns set a personal auction record on Veterans Day, the 1983 entry to his iconic American flag series selling for $36 million at Sothebys.

Sold by a private collector who acquired it directly from Johns, the 12 by 18 inch "Flag" was expected to sell for between $15 million and $20 million. Johns' previous auction record was another flag, painted between 1960 and 1966, that sold at Christie's for $28.6 million in 2010.

Prior to the sale, 1983's flag was on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and had been previously exhibited at the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University

Other auction highlights included the sale of Mark Rothko's "No. 21 (Red, Brown, Black and Orange)" for just under $45 million, and an Andy Warhol portrait of Elizabeth Taylor for $31.5 million.

Despite Johns' record-setting night and the seemingly high prices of the works sold, much of the auction's inventory sold for well below estimates. A yellow wall-hung party balloon by Jeff Koons was expected to sell for $12 million, but did not sell at all. Sotheby's was so confident in the work -- believed to be from Damien Hirst's private collection -- and their asking price, the auction house agreed to buy it if it failed to sell.

"We believe in this work," Alex Rotter, Sotheby's co-head of contemporary art worldwide, told reporters after the auction.

"We believe in Jeff Koons. This has nothing to do with his work. We'll find a home for it. We always do."

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