Scott Reyburn has some interesting statistics from the week of Contemporary sales in London. These numbers show a very strong market even though there were few stand out masterpiece sales:
The London sale nights weren’t exactly studded with masterpieces, but the presence of desirable paintings by international names like Gerhard Richter and Cy Twombly helped the two auction houses raise 240.6 million pounds, or about $367 million. Thanks to ever-expanding global participation — Christie’s said it had 327 bidders from 40 countries — the total was 13 percent higher than last February (albeit from 30 percent more material), and both houses sold more than 86 percent of their lots.
The one case of a record-setting eight-figure sale turns out to have an up-to-the-minute backstory. Reyburn identifies the seller as the Malaysian financier Jho Low who recently did a star turn in the New York Times’s investigative piece on hot money in the New York luxury real estate market, particularly the Time Warner Center.
The sensation of the week was the £30.4 million with fees, or about $46.4 million, paid by an American telephone bidder at Sotheby’s on Tuesday for a monumental 1986 Gerhard Richter painting. The seller was the Malaysian financier Jho Low, according to dealers, who has been an expansive buyer of real estate in the United States over the last five years.
If that wasn’t enough, the buyer is Chicago-based CEO of Citadel going through a very high profile and messy divorce that has involved a fair amount of new real estate and maneuvering over the old domicile.
The buyer, represented by Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s worldwide co-head of contemporary art, caused gasps by making “jump” bids of more than £1 million at a time. Dealers identified him as the Chicago hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.