This report with details on the success of Banksy, Henry Taylor and Glenn Brown and the struggles of lots by Dubuffet, Stingel and Riley is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)On Wednesday, Sotheby’s took up the running in the London contemporary sales this evening, but faltered with an £47.8 million ($62.2 million) sale for 41 lots (£39.5 million without buyers’ premium. Sale prices include the buyers’ premium, estimates do not). After six lots were withdrawn due to market jitters, the estimate was reduced from £52.3 million-£73.2 million to £42.4 million-£60 million both of which still compared favorably with last year’s £40-56 million. But the result was below estimate and fell short of last year’s £54.7 million. After the sale, Alex Branczik of Sotheby’s rolled off a ‘combination of circumstances’ that may have reduced the bidding temperature this evening– COVID and the inability to travel, and the US election among them. Apart from the disconcerting withdrawals, the bidding was mostly patchy with seven unsold lots, and 18 sold either on or below the low estimates. “We must hurry you,” said auctioneer Oliver Barker to his phone bidders on one of the final lots. One sensed he was keen to get the evening over and done with. The sale was to have opened with a 2017 painting by South African artist, Lisa Brice, with a record busting £120,000 low estimate; nothing by her had ever sold at auction for more than £20,000 before. Represented by Stephen Friedman in London and Salon 94 in New York, from whence this work was purchased, it was by far the largest of her works to be offered at auction, but it was withdrawn after its inclusion in the Sotheby’s printed catalogue of highlights, so Brice’s moment in the spotlight will have to wait. Following the standard pattern of offering hot new artists to open their sales, Sotheby’s first lot, instead, was by the African-American Henry Taylor (though neither Brice nor Taylor could be described as young). Taylor’s large 2011 painting of Alice Coachman, a high jumper and first black woman to win Olympic gold, was last at auction in 2016 in a day sale where it made a record $149,000 perhaps in anticipation of the artist’s participation in the Whitney Biennial the following year.
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