LONDON’S latest series of Contemporary art sales put in a robust performance. Auctioneers posted high selling rates and saw the greatest depth of bidding since the art market downturn two years ago.
The series of evening and day sales at Sotheby's and Christie's
made a combined hammer total of £114.4m against an overall estimate
of £85.5m-123m. This compared to £99.6m taken for the equivalent
sales last year.
Even without the additional Contemporary works at Sotheby's sale
of the Kostalitz collection the week before, this was the highest
overall total for the category in London since June 2008.
Phillips de Pury added a further £5.4m for their evening sale on
February 17, with 83 per cent sold by lot, and their day sale was
still taking place at the time of going to press.
The series kicked off at Sotheby's Contemporary
art evening sale on February 15, which saw some fervent action -
not just from a group who staged a protest against Government cuts
in the saleroom before being ejected.
The first lot of the sale, a Sunflower Seed
installation from 2010 by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (b.1957) went
three times over its £80,000-120,000 estimate, selling to one of
three telephone bidders at £290,000. Consisting of 100,000 handmade
porcelain seeds, it was from an edition of ten and was related to
the artist's installation currently in the Tate Modern's Turbine
The private European vendor had bought it from the Gallery
Faurschou in Copenhagen only a year ago.
The top lot was Gerhard Richter's (b.1932) Abstraktes
Bild of 1990 which made £6.4m against a £5m-7m estimate and
was bought by an anonymous telephone bidder represented by Patti
Wong, chairman of Sotheby's Asia.
Guaranteed to the US vendor via an irrevocable bid, the price
was not deemed excessive, as was the case with Andy Warhol's
(1928-1987) Nine Multicolored Marilyns (Reversal Series),
which finally took £2.8m from an unidentified buyer in the room
after the bidding had been disrupted by the protesters. It was
estimated at £2m-3m.
With an impressive 54 of 59 lots finding buyers (92 per cent),
Sotheby's evening sale made a hammer total of £38m, which was
exceeded the night after by Christie's who made
£53.2m from 63 lots.
Here, 58 lots found buyers (92 per cent) with the top lot making
the highest price of the week - a rediscovered Andy Warhol self
portrait that sold at £9.6m against a £3m-5m estimate. It was
bought by dealer Larry Gagosian, who was in the room and taking
instructions from a client on his mobile phone.
There was also a record for Martial Raysse (b.1936) whose
large-scale oil and collage on board L'année Dernière à Capri
(titre exotique) made £3.6m to London and New York dealers
Eykyn Maclean against a £1m-3m estimate.
The price was the highest at auction for a living French
By Alex Capon
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