Sotheby’s mopped up the last of the big spenders last night in London, at least for this sale season. The very top of the market remained quiet but buyers seemed eager to compete for works at more manageable prices. The universal mood is one of exhaustion and saiety. From New York to Venice to Basel to London, they came, they looked, and they bought. At least, that’s what some told Bloomberg’s Scott Reyburn:
“Considering how long a season it’s been, I was amazed by how strong some of the prices were,” said the Connecticut-based dealer and collector David Rogath, who had flown in from the Venice Biennale. “This is a game for people with money, and they know what they are doing. Only the best things do well.”
Meanwhile, Judd Tully spoke to buyers who were eager to point out that the action is moving away from some over-sold names like Richter, Koons, and others:
“The market is doing great, apart from from Hirst and third-rate Basquiats,” said Israeli dealer Micky Tiroche.
One market leader whose works have stumbled this sales cycle, Francis Bacon, saw something of a floor put in last night as two interesting but lesser works sold well, Carol Vogel starts the story:
Both Bacon canvases were being sold by William Acquavella, the New York dealer, according to several dealers familiar with the works. The best of them — “Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne’’ — was a 1966 triptych of Rawsthorne, an artist, who was Bacon’s confidante and model. Two bidders fought for the painting, which was purchased by Alex Corcoran of the Lefevre Gallery in London for $17.3 million. It had been estimated to bring $15.5 million to $23.3 million. Mr. Acquavella had bought the triptych at Christie’s in London nine years ago for $4.2 million. The second Bacon — “Head III’’ — a 1949 canvas of a man’s head peering eerily out at the viewer, was bought by an unidentified telephone bidder for $16.1 million, well above its $10.8 million high estimate.
Judd Tully finishes it with a brief chat with Alex Corcoran after the sale:
“I had a lot longer to go,” Corcoran said as he exited the salesroom, adding, “It’s a very special picture, and I’m surprised and delighted, because there aren’t many bargains in this market and this one of them.”
Tully also does his usual thorough research on the sales history:
Lucio Fontana’s pristine, white, multi-pierced abstraction “Concetto Spaziale, Attese” (1965), which arrived within it’s artist-made frame, sold to a telephone bidder for £4,338,500 ($6,690,401) (est. £3.3-4.5 million). The work was last sold at Sotheby’s London in June 1997 for £155,500 ($238,000)
Going back to Scott Reyburn, the Bloomberg reporter fills in a few more of the details on the group of Gursky works offered by former portfolio manager at GLG and Moore Capital, Greg Coffey:
Australian-born Coffey entered limited-edition C-prints of the bourses at Chicago, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Kuwait, ranging in date from 1990 to 2009. They had previously been unsuccessfully offered privately as a single group to galleries, said dealers.
The photos raised 5.5 million pounds, having been estimated at as much as 3.4 million pounds. All were bought by telephone bidders. The most expensive was the 1999-2009 “ChicagoBoard of Trade III,” which sold for 2.2 million pounds, an auction record for a Gursky exchange photo.
Coffey told clients in October 2012 that he was leaving the hedge fund industry to spend more time with his family, having lost money for investors in the past two years.
Francis Bacon’s Works Steal the Sale at Sotheby’s in London (ArtsBeat/NYTimes)