The team at Sotheby’s were all smiles last night after their Evening sale made £93m. And why wouldn’t they be with this year’s total 24% ahead of last year’s despite the turmoil of the past 12 months at Sotheby’s and surrounding it. Despite the strong advance year-over-year, the $158m Contemporary sale at Sotheby’s bucks the broader market trend and remained below last week’s Impressionist Evening sale total of $247m.
The evening sale had a distracted feel as many in the audience came and went freely keeping up a loud clatter of commentary and conversation throughout the evening with most of the actual commerce taking place on the telephones.
The top lot in the sale, Bacon’s Three Portraits of George Dyer, made £26m which put it very much in the same league with the Monet Nympheas that topped the Impressionist sale. Artnet’s Coline Milliard points out that all three Bacons did reasonably well:
Three Studies, one of only five triptychs of Dyer that exist in this format, is also testament to Bacon’s changing technique, as it is thought to be one of the first works in which the artist used photographs he commissioned from John Deakin as source material.
Representing another nude lover, Peter Lacy, Bacon’s Study for Portrait of P.L., No. 1 (1957) also did well, fetching £4,450,000—at the lower end of its higher estimate. It was last seen at auction in 1987, where it was bought for $858,000 (equivalent to today’s $1,732,444.86). Seated Man (1957–8) easily beat its higher presale estimate of £2 million.
At the after-sale press conference, Cheyenne Westphal and Oliver Barker were asked about the depth of collectors for Peter Doig’s work above £5m. The star Doig lot sold for a record for the artist but on very thin bidding and below the £9m hammer Sotheby’s was putting around as its ambition. The guaranteed lot had been held for 15 years since being bought from Gavin Brown. Although Barker and Westphal guesstimated there were a dozen buyers for Doig at this level, only one or two actually showed up on the night. Here’s Carol Vogel on the painting and other works that did well:
Mr. Doig’s work, expected to fetch around $15 million, sold for $14.4 million. Before the auction, there were grumbles that the piece was not one of his best, with one dealer comparing it to a Hallmark greeting card. While Sotheby’s wouldn’t say who the seller was, dealers familiar with Doig’s work said it was being sold by the Eisenberg family, co-founders of Bed Bath & Beyond.
“No. 10,” an early painting that Rothko created in 1949 of soft reds, yellows, oranges and greens, sold for $4.3 million, after an estimate high of $1.3 million. In 2005, Christie’s had sold it for nearly $1.7 million. Patti Wong, the chairwoman of Sotheby’s Asia, took the winning bid on behalf of a client. Asian collectors also bought a Richter, a Bacon and one of the Warhol “Flowers,” among others.
Yves Klein’s “Untitled Fire Colour Painting (FC 28),” an abstract composition from 1962 of scorched golden-traces of fire and his signature blue drips was expected to sell for $1.69 million to $2.5 million.
Where the sale did very well was with well-established names and unfamiliar pieces in the middle-market range or handful of young artists with more collectors than can be satisfied by the gallery supply, as Katya Kazakina points out:
“The market feels extremely robust,” said Lock Kresler, who is overseeing European operations for Dominique Levy gallery after leading Christie’s private sales department in London for three years. “The last three, four seasons continue to go up and up and up.”
Kresler won several lots for the gallery and its clients, including a unique 1990 sculpture by Louise Bourgeois that fetched 830,500 pounds and Alexander Calder’s 1953 sculpture for 1 million pounds. Both works exceeded their top estimates.
“There were about three works we bid on and were not successful,” Kresler said. “And in some cases we didn’t even get a chance to raise a paddle.”
Kressler seemed to zero in on the established works that were most in demand. The one disappointment among the emerging names was the Wade Guyton that sold well-below the auction house’s low estimate but for a healthy $2m nonetheless. Instead, the heat was on even newer names:
“The Fake Rothko,” a large 2010 square canvas by Adrian Ghenie fetched 1.4 million pounds, four times its high estimate, to set an auction record for the Romanian artist born in 1977. The underbidder was a client of Wei-Ting Huang, Sotheby’s London-based private client liaison for Asia.
It took one minute for David Ostrowski’ 2011 abstract painting “F (Dann Lieber Nein)” to go from the opening bid of 25,000 pounds to the final price of 122,500 pounds. The 33-year-old German artist was making his evening sale debut at a major auction house. In the past year, his works have been selling out at gallery shows and fairs, with prices at about 25,000 euros ($34,000).
In a slight surprise, yesterday’s art darling, Damien Hirst, also showed some signs that collectors were turning their interest back toward his work:
The group included two pieces by Damien Hirst, who remains the most expensive living British artist at auction despite a 91 percent decline in annual sales volume from his peak 2008 to 2013, according to Artprice.com.
Hirst’s butterfly canvas “Kingdom of Heaven” fetched 1.1 million pounds, surpassing the high estimate of 800,000 pounds. His 1992 medicine cabinet “Untitled Aaaaaaa” sold for 290,500 pounds, slightly above the high estimate.
Judd Tully, the scholar of the art market, shows the price appreciation on Basquiat in this report:
There were some other seeming bargains as Jean-Michel Basquiat’s late but nervy (lot 44) “At Large” canvas from 1984 sold to Abigail Asher of New York/Los Angeles art advisory Guggenheim Asher Associates, for £1,762,500/$2,998,894 (est. £800,000-1.2 million).
It last sold here (Sotheby’s London) in June 2007 for £748,000.
Tully also tracked the buying of Nicolo Cardi:
On the Italian Post-War front, (lot 53) Piero Manzoni’s “Achrome” from 1959-60, in kaolin on sewn canvas, sold to Nicolo Cardi of Milan’s Cardi Gallery for £554,500/$943,482 (est. £500-700,000) and (lot 25) Lucio Fontana’s violently slashed “Concetto Spaziale” from 1966 also sold to Cardi for £902,500/$1,535,604 (est. £800,000-1.million). The Manzoni last sold Christie’s London back in October 2007, for £378,000.
“Finally, I had some luck as a buyer,” said Cardi as he exited the salesroom, “and like a good Italian, I support the Italian artists.”
Cardi, a frequent bidder in the contemporary sales, wasn’t kidding, also nabbing (lot 19) Michelangelo Pistoletto’s “Untitled” screen print of two standing figures on mirror-like polished stainless steel for £422,500/$718,884 (est. £350-450,000).
– See more at: http://uk.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/1042859/sothebys-has-a-strong-lead-off-night-in-london#sthash.9u49wRuf.dpuf
Sotheby’s London Hits High Notes with £93 Million Sale (artnet News)
Bacon Painting Sets Pace for Auctions in London (NYTimes.com)
Sotheby’s Has a Strong Lead-Off Night in London (BLOUIN ARTINFO)