cultural capital

Christie’s to Sell Pigeons, Shit


Piero Manzoni, Merda d’artista no. 19 (1961), est. $50,000-70,000. Yes. It is, in fact, a can of “Artist’s Shit.” Manzoni, an Italian conceptualist, fabricated a series of 90 such cans and sold each for the then-current price of gold.Photos: Christies Images Ltd. 2007

After a weekend full of avant-garde art — Scope, the Armory Show, and so on — Christie’s is stepping up to the plate with a contemporary-art auction of its own. Together with Swiss art dealer and contemporary-art fiend Pierre Huber, the stately Rockefeller Center auction house will tonight offer Huber’s eccentric collection of photographs (e.g., Thomas Ruff’s hazy, glammed-up Internet porn), paintings (Christopher Wool’s enormous abstract canvases), sculpture (Piero Manzoni’s famous canned shit, which is, well, exactly that), and large-scale installations (i.e. Mike Kelley’s wackily eerie Test Room). Each one is sporting a hefty price tag — even the shit is estimated at $50,000 to $70,000 — for a total sale estimate of $11 to $15 million. That’s low for postwar and contemporary sales, but pretty significant considering there’s nary a Pollock in sight. —Rachel Wolff


Paul McCarthy, Bear and Rabbit on a Rock (1992), est. $1–1.5 million: McCarthy’s dramatic sculpture is a centerpiece in the show and is predicted to generate significant interest. The euphoric duo is displayed prominently in Christie’s main atrium beneath an installation of ten enormous disco balls (John M. Armleder’s Universal Mirror Balls), creating a bizarrely endearing dirty-Disney-does-disco phenomenon.


Kader Attia, Flying Rats (2005), est. $60,000–80,000: Some 150 real, live pigeons peck at 40 birdseed-covered children in a wood and mesh cage.


Mike Kelley, Test Room Containing Multiple Stimuli Known to Elicit Curiosity and Manipulatory Responses (1999), est. $800,000–1 million: This is one of Huber’s most well-known works and has already attracted many interested visitors. The installation’s strange components include dirty laundry, a tetherball pole, a very pregnant nude yellow mannequin with a very erect penis.

Christie’s to Sell Pigeons, Shit