In another indication of the shifting art market, Christie’s held a Modern British Art Evening sale that made £26.387m ($34.8m) with 94% of the 48 lots sold. The sale showed a 30% rise over the previous year’s total. Christie’s tells us that bidders were hardly confined to the Commonwealth nations. Instead, the appeal in Modern British art seems to be that it is high quality Modern art that happens to come from Britain. There was bidding interest from 20 countries across five continents.
The top lot was Henry Moore’s unique carving Head which sold for£4,621,250 ($6,100,050). Sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Lynn Chadwick and Barry Flanagan dominated the top ten lots. One work, Barry Flanagan’s Nijinski Hare, has traced a decade-long line through the rising art market to last night’s record price. In 2006, of the five casts of the sculptors dancing rabbit figure was sold for £624k. Three years later, the price for another example had fallen to £505,250; but by 2010 the price had bounced back to £782,500. The next year another example gained some momentum to achieve £998,500. Six years on, in 2017, another work leapt to £1.328m. Today, the price nudged forward a bit to £1,448,750 ($1,912,350.)
Not all of the sculptures sold were from artists who have departed. Emily Young’s Cautha £344,750 ($455,070) made a new record for the artist and Kenneth Armitage’s Striding Figures (Version 2) got £218,750 ($288,750). Other sculptural highlights were Khan by William Turnbull £692,750 ($914,430), Barbara Hepworth’s Tiki £1,808,750 ($2,387,550) and Lynn Chadwick’s Jubilee IV £2,024,750 ($2,672,670).
Amid the British artists there was a record for Scotsman Samuel John Peploe and his Still Life with Tulips at £992,750 ($1,310,430.) An Irish painter living in the US also saw strong sales as Sean Scully’s M.18.04 sold for £488,750 ($645,150), more than three times its estimate of £150,000.
The Taiwanese-born Richard Lin continued to make strong progress as paintings from the collection of the artist’s daughter all soared above their estimates:
- Painting relief 1965-66 £236,750 ($312,510)
- September 1974-79 £344,750($455,070)
- Stripes 1968-70(£272,750 / $360,030 / €310,662)
Bridget Riley’s Shadow Rhythm £1,628,750 ($2,149,950), doubled its high estimate of £800,000. Frank Auerbach’s iconic London street scene Mornington Crescent Looking South II made £608,750 ($803,550). Sir Stanley Spencer’s Portrait of Kate Morrell sold for £536,750 ($708,510.) David Hockney’s Two Pink Flowers got £536,750 ($708,510.) Pauline Boty’s Portrait of Derek Marlowe with Unknown Ladies achieved £248,750 ($328,350.)