Eric Clapton’s Richter Abstract makes £21.3m or $34m to close out the London sales with a record price for a living artist. Judd Tully provides some valuable context to the sale including the revelation that the work is one panel of a triptych:
For Clapton the sale was better than any number of gold records since he acquired the painting at Sotheby’s New York in November 2001 — just two months after 9/11 — for $3,415,750. Perhaps more remarkable than that appreciation is the fact that the previous record it shattered, set just last May at Christie’s New York for “Abstraktes Bild (798-3)” (1993), was $21,810,500 (est. $14-18 million). Basic math tells you that’s a 40 percent appreciation in five months. (Ironically, and perhaps outrageously, the original Richter was made and sold as a triptych, this being one of the panels. Apparently Clapton has kept the two remaining panels. What would Mr. Richter think?)
“That’s a massive jump,” said San Francisco dealer Anthony Meier, a Richter specialist, moments after the sale, “but two people thought it was worth the chase.”
Another less heralded Richter, smaller and missing the celebrity provenance, “Abstraktes Bild (840-2)” (1997), also drew competing telephone bids, ultimately selling for £1,945,250 ($3,119,403) (est. £1-1.5 million). It last sold at Sotheby’s London in July 2008 for £959,650.