THE global contemporary art market received an important shot in the arm in London last week as Sotheby's set the highest total ever seen for a contemporary art sale in Europe.
The packed evening sale on February 27 netted £83.9m hammer,
against a presale estimate of £72m-103m. Fifty six of the 70 lots
The auction at Sotheby's was staged at something of a critical
juncture for this booming sector. In general it witnessed stronger
bidding than was seen three weeks earlier at rivals Christie's
evening contemporary sale on February 6, which saw something of a
cooling off in demand with over 30 per cent of the lots unsold and
the £64.5m total falling below its £72m-100m presale-estimate.
Against the background of continuing instability in the
financial markets and recession fears, Sotheby's opted to stage
their contemporary series separately from the Impressionist and
modern sales at the beginning of February, which meant that for the
first time their contemporary sales were not held back to back with
Phillips de Pury also conducted contemporary art sales last week
that raised over £25m.
Sotheby's sale, however, showed that there remains plenty of
confidence in the market, especially for the right works. In fact,
it was the second most lucrative sale the auctioneers have ever
staged in Europe, bettered only by the £103m February sale of
Impressionist & Modern Art, and twice the total of the
equivalent sale of 2007.
This was despite the top lot of the sale, Francis Bacon's 1969
Study of a Nude With Figure in a Mirror, attracting little
interest in the room and selling below estimate at £17.8m to a
European private collector.
Andy Walhol's Three Self Portraits made the second
highest price at £10.2m, while six artist records were set,
including £9.2m for a Lucio Fontana and £7.1m for a Gerhard
By Alex Capon