THE latest Contemporary art sales in London were a little flatter than expected, but Modern British art generated a batch of stand-out prices.
Both evening sales at Sotheby's and Christie's went below their
pre-sale estimates last week, as was the case with the
Impressionist and Modern series the week before, but the Capital's
Contemporary week witnessed records for leading British names,
including Frank Auerbach, Chris Ofili and the Chapman Brothers.
The combined hammer total for the Contemporary sales was
£95.58m, which took the overall figure for the June fortnight of
auctions to £361.5m, below the £399m pre-sale low estimate but well
over double the £132.6m of the equivalent series last year.
Sotheby's Contemporary art evening sale on June
28 made £35.5m (estimate: £38.3m-52.8m), with 44 of the 53 lots
finding buyers, and saw seven of a collection of eight works from
an unnamed London collection sell for £3.6m setting two artist
Uppermost amongst the consignment was Frank Auerbach's (b.1931)
Mornington Crescent - Summer Morning from 1991, which saw
three bidders compete for it above its £1.5m-2m estimate. A
colourful urban landscape, it was knocked down at £2m to an
anonymous telephone bidder - a new high for the artist at auction -
against trade underbidding in the room.
The top lot at Sotheby's was Yves Klein's RE 49, Relief
Eponge Bleu from 1961, a large-scale work consisting of
natural sponges and other mixed media laid down on panel, which
came from the collection of the German banking firm HVB Group and
was estimated at £4.5m-6.5m. It drew a number of telephone bidders
and sold to a US private buyer at £5.5m.
Christie's evening sale on June 30 saw 52 of
the 62 lots sell for a hammer total of £39.4m (estimate
Among six auction records, a new high was seen for Chris Ofili
(b.1968), whose painting celebrating African womanhood
Orgena from 1998, which featured the artist's trademark
use of elephant dung, sold to a US private buyer on the phone for
£1.65m against a £700,000-1m estimate.
The same buyer also secured Glenn Brown's (b.1966) 9ft (2.74m)
high oil painting Dali-Christ at a record £1.25m and the
enormous fibreglass statue, Übermensch, by Jake and Dinos
Chapman, showing Stephen Hawking in his wheelchair precariously
perched on a rocky crag, for a price which, although a
below-estimate £200,000, was another auction record.
Both works had featured in Charles Saatchi's 1997 Young British
Artists' exhibition Sensation, although the advertising
magnate, who last week announced he was intending to donate key
elements of his collection to the nation, was not the vendor
Top lot at Christie's was one of Andy Warhol's (1928-1987)
silkscreen paintings of Elizabeth Taylor. Silver Liz from
1963 sold for a low-estimate £6m to an anonymous telephone
• Bonhams, meanwhile, sold a Frank Auerbach 1961 portrait of his
long-term lover, Estella Olive West at their 20th Century British
art sale on June 30. Entitled Head of E.O.W. III, it made
£750,000 against a £400,000-600,000 estimate.
By Alex Capon