London turned up the heat in the market for Contemporary art when both Sotheby’s and Christie’s achieved outstanding results at their June evening sales.
Sotheby’s total of £19.3m on June 22 was their highest ever for a London Contemporary art auction, while the £24,459,600 achieved at Christie’s the following evening was a mere £2000 short of the record high they achieved in February.
Over 85 per cent of the material found buyers among packed audiences and heavily manned telephones at both houses.
Charles Saatchi’s Triumph of Painting show continues to set the agenda in the London Contemporary market and British painters dominated the top prices at these evening sales. Lucian Freud’s powerful 1943 canvas Man with a Feather (Self-Portrait) topped Sotheby’s sale with a mighty £3.3m on the telephone, followed by David Hockney’s 1963 Seated Woman being served Tea by standing Companion at a record £1.6m, paid on commission.
Nine artist records set
Next evening Christie’s set no fewer than nine new artist records, led by the £4.4m paid by a European collector on the telephone for Francis Bacon’s 1967 canvas, Portrait of George Dyer staring into a Mirror. Only eight out of 57 lots failed to sell at Christie’s, but there was a new note of selectivity in the Lucian Freud market when the 1967 oil, Girl Holding a Towel, failed to sell against a £1.8m-2.2m estimate.
Earlier in the week London’s masterpiece-starved Impressionist & Modern sales continued to follow a familiar pattern of setting high prices for major works by secondary artists. At Sotheby’s conspicuously stronger £45.9m Part I sale on June 20, Kees van Dongen’s imposing 1906 Femme au grand chapeau more than doubled its 1997 auction price to lead the sale with a record £4.5m, while at Christie’s the record £2.2m achieved for Karl Schmidt-Rottluff’s 1912 In der Dämmerung was one of the more significant contributions to a relatively less bullish total of £31.5m. Nonetheless, despite the lack of major big-ticket works by the most desirable names, the market for Impressionist & Modern remains stable and both houses found buyers for around three quarters of their lots.
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