Sotheby’s exciting Italian sale closed with auctioneer Oliver Barker shouting “Viva Italia!” And it is not hard to imagine the elation and relief Barker’s cry signified echoing deep into the company’s ranks. Sotheby’s—which has suffered through several years of repeated drubbings in the Contemporary category by their rivals at Christie’s—neatly inverted the scoring with their Italian sale making nearly the same £40m as Christie’s Contemporary sale. Both houses wound up with evening totals that were similar.
Piero Manzoni’s Achrome at Sotheby’s was a major part of the sale’s value but there was action across the board, especially a number of battles over Enrico Castellani’s surface works.
During the Contemporary portion of the sale, Bloomberg’s Mary Romano noticed a certain European-Asian transfer corridor opening up:
The top lot was a black, brown and yellow abstract 1958 painting by French artist Soulages that sold for 2.6 million pounds to a private Asian buyer, Sotheby’s said in a statement. Its estimate was 2 million pounds to 3 million pounds.
“Asian buyers were out in force tonight,” Alex Branczik, head of contemporary art in London, said in the statement.
Martin Kippenberger’s “Ohne Titel,” a self-portrait from 1992, was purchased for 2.3 million pounds by the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, Sotheby’s said. Its estimate was 2.5 million to 3.5 million pounds.
Coling Gleadell kept score on the emerging artists, including one coming back through the aforementioned China-Europe gateway:
Sotheby’s gave ample space in its evening sale to younger artists, in honor of Frieze week. It obtained a record £110,500 or $177,200 for an eight-part Untitled abstract painting of 2013 by Israel Lund, which it had anticipated with a £80,000–120,000 estimate, and then trumped the record £206,500 given at Phillips on Wednesday for a sculpture by Danh Vō with a new record £314,500 for a six-foot-plus high gold leaf painting on cigarette cases, Numbers (9)(2011). Numerous bidders, including the French buyer of his work at Phillips, and the White Cube gallery itself, lifted it over the £100,000–150,000 estimate.
Further bullish prices for young artists were obtained when rising Chinese art star Jia Aili, who had just chalked up a record $952,000 with a painting that sold to a European buyer at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, was on stage with a slightly smaller 2009 painting of a helmeted astronaut caught within a jagged geometry that sold to an Asian buyer for £674,500 or $1,081,696, far above a £250,000–350,000 estimate. Another high riser is Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie, and his Duchamp’s Funeral I (2009), surpassed a £400,000–600,000 estimate to sell to an Asian buyer for £1 million or $1.6 million.
Finally, a bit oddly, the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Lane has some thoughts about the Anselm Kiefer market that are strikingly her own:
Mr. Kiefer, 69, has always been a tricky sell given his heavily Nazi-themed works that frequently depict him giving the “Heil, Hitler” salute in a Nazi uniform. One of two Kiefers at Christie’s stalled at $563,000, far below its $660,000 low estimate. A Mandarin speaker paid $1.9 million for his 1999 work “Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom!,” a $981,000 loss on the work’s previous value but reflective of a trend amid Chinese millionaires to buy works confronting Maoist thought. A buyer at Phillips paid $1.3 million for “For Paul Celan,” Mr. Kiefer’s homage to the Nazi-persecuted Jewish poet.
Mr. Kiefer’s London dealer Jay Jopling also has taken an unorthodox step to bolster his artist’s soft market by involving an academic institution in a business deal, according to people familiar with the situation. In a move many art insiders would consider anathema, Mr. Jopling himself joined as a main sponsor, along with BNP Paribas, of London’s ongoing Royal Academy exhibition on Mr. Kiefer. Having works in a prestigious exhibition increases an artist’s public profile—and the value of the works.
Mr. Jopling has been quietly selling around seven of the works currently on loan in the show for approximately $750,000 each, according to people familiar with the matter.
Pierre Soulages Breaks $4 Million Mark at Sotheby’s (artnet News)