Christie's auction employees in front of Edward Hopper's "East Wind Over Weehawken" in New York, Nov. 26, 2013. The painting sold for a record $40.5 million on Thursday.
Edward Hopper's famous portrait of economic hardship has just become the new symbol of unbridled wealth.
The American realist's 1934 painting, "East Wind Over Weehawken," sold on Thursday for $40.5 million at Christie's sale of American Art. That makes it the most expensive Hopper ever sold, beating the previous record of $26.9 million for "Hotel Window." It also far exceeded its estimate of between $22 million and $28 million.
The painting depicts a desolate street corner in Depression-era Weehawken , N.J., with crooked electric poles and derelict front yards. One house has a "For Sale" sign out front, highlighting the housing bust of the period.
Collectors and gallery owners said that aside from being a visual masterpiece, the piece resonates with buyers for its echoes of the current economic cycles of booms and busts.
The sale also highlights the flood of money pouring into the art market from the wealthy. With fortunes soaring on stock-market gains, and rich collectors looking for alternative stores of value, top-quality art in just about every category is breaking records. While the more folksy American Art of the early 20th century has lagged behind edgier post-war and contemporary art, it's quickly catching up.
Sotheby's this week sold Norman Rockwell's "Saying Grace" for more than $46 million. That was a new record for any American Art piece as well as for a Rockwell. It sold for twice its pre-sale estimate.
The work, which appeared as a popular cover image of the Saturday Evening Post in 1951, shows a Mennonite family praying at a restaurant.
First published December 5 2013, 8:28 AM