LONDON’S Frieze week opened with more cautious buying this year as concerns about the impact of the current economic turbulence in Europe and the US were much in evidence.
Last week saw the customary hive of activity on the Contemporary
art scene as the Frieze Art Fair got underway in Regent's
Park but early sales reports were less bullish than previous years
ATG's report here.
The auctions saw some mixed bidding and, although Christie's
evening sale on October 14 gave a significant boost, the sales at
Sotheby's, Phillips de Pury and Bonhams were marked by some weaker
results than were anticipated.
Christie's sale had the major highlight of the
week - Gerhard Richter's Kerze (Candle) from 1982 which
drew strong telephone bidding and was knocked down to an anonymous
buyer at £9.3m against a £6m-9m estimate. The price was a record
for the artist.
The work itself was part of a series of 27 oils on canvas from
the early 1980s. Another example of his single-flame candles is
currently on display at the much-publicised exhibition dedicated to
the artist at the Tate Modern.
While another Richter, Abstraktes Bild from 1992, took
£3.2m against a £2.5m-3.5m estimate, decent bidding also emerged at
Christie's for Antony Gormley's cast iron Angel of the
North maquette. Executed in 1996 as part of an edition of
five, this smaller version of the artist's most famous sculpture
sold to an anonymous buyer at £3m against a £1.5-2m estimate and
also made a record for the artist at auction.
Overall, Christie's evening sale made a £32.9m hammer total
against a £27.6m-39.5m presale estimate, with 47 of the 53 lots
finding buyers. This added to the £15m generated by their 47-lot
Italian art sale on the same day.
Sotheby's two sales on October 13 took place
against the backdrop of a small protest outside the Bond Street
premises in support of the company's art handlers in New York who
are involved in a pay dispute with the firm's management.
In the saleroom itself, the 47-lot evening sale of Contemporary
art made a hammer total of £15.1m which was below the £19.1m-26.6m
With 36 lots finding buyers, some of the bigger-ticket lots
failed to sell, including Peter Doig's Bellevarde pitched
at £1.5m-2m and Frank Auerbach's (b.1931) Head of Helen
Gillespie II estimated at £800,000-1.2m. The headline lot -
Boy's Head by Lucian Freud - got way below-estimate after
a single telephone bid of £2.8m.
Sotheby's saw more competition for a number of works in their
better-performing Italian art sale held immediately before. Helped
by 36 works from a North Italian collection, the auction raised
£18.4m which was well within the range of the presale estimate.
The highlight was Alberto Burri's Combustione Legno
from 1957 which set a new record for the artist at auction, selling
at £2.8m to an anonymous telephone bidder.
Meanwhile, Bonhams staged their first
Contemporary art sale during Frieze week with an initial 20-lot
sale in Bond Street on October 13. A further 147 lots will follow
in Knightsbridge on October 19.
Of the 20 lots, 14 got away for a £1.69m hammer total, someway
shy of the £3.4-4m presale estimate due to the failure of the
biggest-ticket lot - Alighiero Boetti's monumental Anno
1984 which was estimated at £1.2m-1.8m.
A symbol in the catalogue denoted that the auctioneers had an
ownership interest in the lot, as was the case with Martial
Raysse's Untitled from 1963 that made a low-estimate
With Glenn Brown's oil on panel Little Death carrying a
symbol indicating it was guaranteed either by the auctioneers or a
third-party, this would appear to represent a significant change of
policy for Bonhams following chairman Robert Brooks' previous
criticisms of the guarantee system.
In the event, Little Death sold at £500,000 against a
£700,000-900,000 estimate and was the top lot of the sale.
Phillips de Pury's evening sale on October 12
made a hammer total of £6.96m against a presale estimate of
£9.94m-14.4m. The top lot was Jeff Koons' polychromed aluminum
sculpture Seal Walrus Trashcans which made £1.85m against
a £2m-3m estimate.
By Alex Capon
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