At Christie’s, a $28.6 Million Bid Sets a Record for Jasper Johns

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It was an all-American moment at Christie’s on Tuesday night. One of Jasper Johns’s seminal “Flag” paintings, from 1960-66, which had belonged to the writer Michael Crichton, became the star in the auction house’s postwar and contemporary art auction, selling for $28.6 million.

That figure was a record for the artist at auction, and well above the painting’s high $15 million estimate. Before the sale, many had speculated that it would set a record for a work by a living artist. (That record is held by Lucian Freud’s painting “Benefits Supervisor,” which sold for $33.6 million at Christie’s in New York two years ago.)

The Johns buyer was Richard Rossello, a dealer in American paintings based in Bryn Mawr, Pa., who could be seen with a cellphone glued to his ear during the bidding; whom he was buying for was not divulged.

Throughout the evening — the first of a week of postwar and contemporary art auctions — Americans dominated the buying, in contrast with last week’s sales of Impressionist and modern art, where Europeans, Asians and Middle Easterners were the big spenders. Officials at Christie’s estimated that 75 percent of the buyers were Americans....

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