Sotheby’s Contemporary sale in London tonight didn’t provide much in the way of fireworks but for Richter, Bacon and Basquiat. But the underlying numbers were still positive. The Mugrabi’s put a floor under the Basquiat market that was still above the level of the previous market’s peakiest peak, as Scott Reyburn points out:
The former graffiti artist’s acrylic, oilstick and collage painting “Untitled (Pecho/Oreja)” was sold by U2 for 5.1 million pounds at Sotheby’s, London, in July 2008.
The 1982-1983 work, featuring one of Basquiat’s mask-like heads, inscribed “chest” and “ear” in Spanish, was re-offered for sale with an estimate of 7 million pounds to 9 million pounds.
It was bought by Mugrabi, sitting in the second row of the saleroom. The New York collector also paid 5 million pounds for Basquiat’s text-heavy 1983 triptych “Five Fish Species,” estimated at 4.25 million pounds to 6.25 million pounds.
The night’s few moments of fun were over artists who seemed fresher to the market, according to the WSJ’s Kelly Crow and Mary Lane:
Competition got particularly intense whenever works by younger artists without lengthy auction track records turned up, like Adrian Ghenie. Ghenie’s intense portrait of notorious Nazi “Dr. Mengele 2” sold for $189,720–over three times its high estimate. El Anatsui’s 2007 aluminum-and-copper wire tapestry sold for $771,788, exceeding its $565,000 high estimate.
Sotheby’s specialist Cheyenne Westphal said collectors who already feel confident about classic choices like Calder–seven bidders fought over his untitled $892,450 tabletop sculpture–are now “looking for the next generation” of artists on the rise.