The big news in last night’s Contemporary sale at Sotheby’s was that there was no big news, no dominant, out-sized, unexpected sale. Instead, there was an active, orderly market with a few new faces but mostly dominated by the familiar big-name market makers.
Gerhard Richter’s guaranteed Wand sold just above the low estimate (to the guarantor or was Sotheby’s subsidizing the sale to have an impact in the Contemporary market for other reasons?) Carol Vogel IDs the seller in her report:
Before the sale, dealers said they believed the painting was being sold by Pierre Chen, a Taiwanese businessman and collector. Two telephone bidders pursued the work, which ended up selling for $28.6 million.
One of the most active buyers so far this week has been David Nahmad who bought the top Burri in Christie’s Arte Povera sales on Tuesday and was back at it again on Wednesday with the red plastic work that he bought for £3.7m, according to Katya Kazakina :
“I’ve been buying Burri for 50 years,” Nahmad said, exiting the New Bond Street salesroom. “Burri was my friend. We might lend the paintings to the Guggenheim Museum for their upcoming Burri exhibition.”
That’s not all Nahmad was buying. Judd Tully has the details on another of his purchases:
Lucio Fontana’s “Concetto Spaziale, Attese” from 1965, painted in pristine white and cut with five vertical slash marks, sold to international dealer David Nahmad for £2,154,500/$3,542,429 (est. £1.5-2/$2.46-3.28 million. One of five Fontana offerings on Wednesday, it last sold at Sotheby’s London in June 1990 for what was then a market-correct price of £242,000 hammer.
Tully also noticed Nahmad bidding on the Sigmar Polke work Rokoko:
It sold for £2,546,500 ($4,186,955; est. £1-1.5/$1.64-2.46 million). David Nahmad was the underbidder, possibly indicating Polke’s still-undervalued market has a brighter future.
Colin Gleadell handled the Mugrabi spotting duties last night. Here’s his summary:
The other driving engine of this market, Jose Mugrabi, was policing the Warhols and Basquiats as ever, snagging a Diamond Dust Shoes canvas from 1980-81 above estimate for £1.2m and a large work on paper by Jean-Michel Basquiat for £1.7m, again above estimate. The seller of the Basquiat will be toasting Mugrabi as he bought the painting in Paris seven years ago for a quarter of the price.
Similar mark ups are not unusual for these artists and Mugrabi is never far from the story. The top Andy Warhol work of the sale, a medium-size red Mao, 1973, had been bought by him 14 years ago for £421,500. According to the Sotheby’s catalogue, it has changed hands since then and it sold yesterday within estimate for £7.6m, boosted by demand from Asia. Another Warhol, after Edvard Munch’s portrait of Eva Mudocci, did even better. Having sold in 1998 for $55,000 it now sold to a phone bidder against, who else, Jose Mugrabi, for £2.3m or $3.8m. So that’s another seller who will be toasting his health.
The presence of market stalwarts hasn’t kept out entrepreneurial newcomers. Olyvia Kwok has been making a splash this week. Kazakina spotted her bidding on Basquiat:
Olyvia Kwok, whose London-based firm Willstone Management specializes in art-market arbitrage and art lending, bought Basquiat’s 1984 painting “Water-Worshipper” for slightly below the low estimate of 2.5 million pounds. In December 2010, the work had fetched 2.4 million euros ($3.3 million) at Sotheby’s in Paris.
“In 18 months we are looking to double what we paid,” Kwok said.
As Tully points out, Kwok’s bid came just as the hammer looked to be falling on a pass:
“I think it was a bargain,” said Kwok as she exited the salesroom, “and I believe that by the end of the year it will be in a different league.”
Contemporary Keeps Climbing at Sotheby’s (Blouin Artinfo)
Salerooms : Colin Gleadell on how paint remains solid (Art Monthly)