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Christie’s rounded up the London Contemporary Art sales week this evening with its traditional combination of Post War and Contemporary art and 20th century Italian art. The former had been estimated at £40.9 million-£56 million ($53.4 million-$73 million) for 27 lots after 2 were withdrawn, and made £49.2 million ($64.6 million). The Italian sale had 30 lots estimated at £9.7 million-£14 million ($11.8 million-$15.7 million) after 2 were withdrawn, but only made a disappointing £5.3 million ($6.9 million) with more than half the lots unsold.
Taken as a whole, comparative figures for last October’s London sales were £64.6 million ($84 million) for 49 lots of Contemporary Art, and £24.6 million ($32 million) for 36 lots of Italian art. So, all told, while lot numbers were down by 33%, the overall sale total was a more drastic 40% down from last year.
Taking the more buoyant contemporary sale first, Christie’s had the distinction of handling the only two £10 million lots of the week.
Peter Doig’s Boiler House carried the top estimate of the London week at £13 million ($15.7 million). Dating from 1993, the painting was from the "Concrete Cabins" series, which depict a Le Corbusier designed building in France and have sold in this price region before. Promised by previous owners, West coast collectors Ken and Judy Siebel, to the San Francisco Museum of Art who lent it to a Tate retrospective in 2008, it was sold instead to the anonymous consignor at this sale. Boiler House had a third party guarantee, and although never seen at auction before, attracted little competition and sold below the estimate, presumably to the guarantor, for £13.9 million ($18.2 million) including the premium.
In second place was a rare commissioned portrait by David Hockney estimated at £11 million-£18 million ($14.4 million-$23.5 million) with a third party guarantee– an odd estimate that made most people think the reserve was probably £10 million ($13 million). Made in 1971 in the artist’s inimitably cool style mostly reserved for his friends, Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell or Henry Geldzhaler, but of the less famous Sir David Webster, a former administrator at London’s Royal Opera House, it was being sold by the Opera House to inject some much needed cash into its operation. Hockney only accepted the commission because of his love of opera and making opera designs and probably never imagined it could be sold. As it was there were two bidders who took the bidding to the £11 million low estimate or £12.9 million ($16.9 million) including premium— the 6th highest price for the artist
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