On the Richter S(c)ale at Christie’s

The success of tonight’s post-war and contemporary art evening sale at Christie’s will be measured in dollars (although we’re sure that the majority of winning bidders will have primary bank accounts in other currencies), but it will also register on the Richter scale. Gerhard Richter, that is. Sure, this sale (like that of Sotheby’s) features a giant, shiny, Jeff Koons sculpture (we like the heart better and are betting Christie’s “Diamond (Blue)” goes for around half of the auction house’s $20 million high estimate) and some incredible de Koonings, but we can’t help but be besotted with Richter’s “Dusenjager (Jet Fighter)” a 1963 painting owned by Chicago collectors Lewis and Susan Manilow that’s expected to fetch between $10 million and $15 million.

The work is part of a series of eight paintings of military aircrafts based upon photos that Richter found in newspapers or magazines. “The idea of seeing it blurry makes you think that it’s somehow a fleeting memory in your own mind, and you look at the image twice as if you should know it or you should recognize it from another source,” says Amy Capellazzo, international co-head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie”s. “The jet fighter plane is itself, of course, as a plane would be, steel gray, but the artist has placed the plane over top of the most incredible twilight sky. It’s just the most frozen and poignant image and something that completely looms as an emblem of the Cold War.”

We know Santa has been hit pretty hard by the credit crunch (elves are easily swayed by the prospect of cheap mortgages) plus he’s always preferred sleighs to jets, so we’ve set our sights a bit lower–on the stunning smaller 1994 Richter abstract canvas that Christie’s is selling tomorrow morning. It’s even Christmas-colored.

A quiet stunner on the block tonight is a 1989 silver painting by Rudolf Stingel (don’t bother clicking through–the photo doesn’t do it justice). The untitled canvas, a shimmering web of hazy green oil, metallic silver spray paint, and traces of the gauzy overlay that helped to create its mesmerizing texture, was thoughtfully placed at the sale viewing. Hung opposite Agnes Martin‘s “Loving Love” (2000), the Stingel canvas seemed locked in spirited conversation with that of the Minimalist master.