As snow showers fell on Manhattan’s Upper East Side this afternoon, an untitled photo by Israeli artist Adi Ness sold for a record $377,000 at Sotheby’s Auction House. Part of its annual sale of Israeli and International Art, the print is a scene from Nes’s Soldiers (1999) series based on Leonardo’s “The Last Supper.” It is number four from an edition of five. It was estimated to sell for $80-$100K; its sibling print, Number 2, sold for $264,000 six years ago, which was a record price for work of Israeli art in 2006.
Nes’s works are said to digitally manipulate or pose Israeli soldiers in a variety of scenes that question the machismo ideal or juxtapose them in classic Israeli pioneer images. In this work, Israeli soldiers imitate poses from “The Last Supper,” except they are more relaxed, a bush stands in for a halo around the central character, they use standard issue IDF cups and plates, and there is one additional man in the scene. The central character looks dazed, perhaps shell-shocked and apart from his comrades. Nes says it is not their last supper.
Also in the auction, “The Milkman,” a 1928 oil by Reuven Rubin sold for $389K, slightly over its estimated of $300-$350K. His 1969 oil titled “Mother and Child with Pomegranates” sold for $149K, but his “Landscapre in Galilee” which is owned by Ephraim Kishon’s estate reached a high bid of only $65K. It did not meet its reserve price and was unsold.“Jerusalem at Night,” a 1947 painting by Mordecai Ardon did meet its reserve and sold for $250K, or $305K after the buyer’s premium is added to its cost.
The auctions (a Judaica auction was held earlier in the day) were staid, except for a flurry of excitement around the auction of a spice tower.
“A large and important German Silver Spice Tower” from Nuremberg, circa 1730, by Matheus Stadlein, with shaped foot chased with strapwork, square body pierced with Gothic windows and engraved with doors, pierced gallery with corner turrets with flags, central hexagonal spire with scaled roof and ball and pennant finial, that stands nearly 17 inches in height was expected to sell for under $100K. It sold for $185K or $227K after the buyer’s premium. One bidder/dealer thought he had snagged it for $180K, saying “chai” to his client over his cellphone, but soon enough, he lost to a higher bidder. Why so much for a spice tower? A unique one from an earlier auction was sold for over $300K, and a rising tide raises all ships, thus pulling up the value of other towers.