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Spencer sets new Mod Brit record

25 November 2013Written by Alex Capon

An auction record was set at Christie’s last week when Sir Stanley Spencer's (1891-1959) 'Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta: Conversation Between Punts' sold at £5.3m.

Setting a new benchmark of an individual lot the Modern British art sales category, the 1955 oil on canvas outsold both Sunflower and Dog Worship from 1937 that took £4.8m at Sotheby's sale of the Evill/Frost collection in June 2011, the previous high for Spencer, and LS Lowry's The Football Match and Piccadilly Circus which both sold for £5m at Christie's in 2011 and had formerly held the Mod Brit record.

Interestingly, a symbol in the catalogue identified the work as being subject to a third party guarantee, something not often seen in this sector. The buyer was an anonymous telephone bidder.

The work itself came from a British collection and was part of Spencer's celebrated series painted which explored the idea of Christ's presence in his home town of Cookham, Berkshire. Regarded as the most important in the artist's career and the one he was working on towards the end of his life, the 3ft 6in x 3ft (1.07m x 92cm) oil on canvas drew three bidders against a £3-5m estimate.

The sale also set records for John Piper and Ivon Hitchens, while Lowry's Bolton Landscape saw a prolonged bidding competition against a £250,000-350,000 pitch and was eventually knocked down to a UK private buyer on the phone at £700,000.

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