The Lauffs Collection May Have Been Sotheby’s Secret Weapon But the Contemporary Sale Created a Sense of Awe in the Market
Sotheby’s 94.7 ($188) million pound sale of Contemporary art surprised the market with its nearly 95% sell-through rate. Only four lots were bought in, though one was a pricey Bacon. And despite the success of the Bacon study of George Dyer and the record price for a Prince Nurse painting–even as the London critiques roundly pan his Serpentine Gallery show–the real success of the sale was the broad base of the selling. The top ten lots only accounted for about 47% of the total sale (at Christie’s the night before it was 70%.)
Undoubtedly, a good part of that was the success of the 12 works from the Lauffs collection which doubled its high estimate by going for $37 million.
There were artist’s records for 11 works, including the four British artists Anthony Gormley, Bridget Riley, Rachel Whiteread and Frank Auerbach. Seven other records were achieved for Richard Prince, Martial Raysee, Domenico Gnoli, Anish Kapoor, Sean Scully, Jean Tinguely and Marlene Dumas.
These numbers run counter to every other trend in the auction market and show that the Contemporary category has the capacity to continually renew itself. In recent years, Warhol, Bacon, Hirst and Koons have lead the market. Last night’s sale gave evidence that while no artist has emerged at that level, a variety of other names–Klein, Richter, Basquiat and Prince to name only a few–could eventually carry that weight.