The Contemporary art sales in London last week raised a hammer total of £254.6m, a record for an auction series in this category in the capital.
When added to the £356m total from the Impressionist &
Modern series the week before, this ensured that the amount of
money changing hands across the flagship fortnight of sales was
substantially greater than any previous back-to-back London series
- overshooting the previous high set in February 2008 by over
The top lot of the Contemporary sales was Francis Bacon's
(1909-92) Portrait of George Dyer Talking which was
knocked down for £37.6m at
Christie's evening sale on February 13 to a US buyer on the
phone. Coming after the
£31m Juan Gris at their Imps & Mods evening sale, the
result meant that Christie's had the highest individual prices in
The 6ft 6in x 4ft 10in (1.98 x 1.47cm) oil on canvas depicting
the artist's lover sitting on a bar stool at the centre of a
revolving room was billed as 'the most significant large-scale
portrait from 1966 of George Dyer to be presented at auction in
more than a decade'.
Not many of Bacon's full-size single portraits now remain in
private hands and this example had previously sold at auction at
Christie's New York in November 2000 for £6m - a record price for
the artist at the time. Having sold to a Brazilian buyer, the work
had since changed hands with the vendor having purchased it from
Zurich gallery Thomas Ammann Fine Art.
At auction this time round, it was offered with an estimate 'in
the region of £30m' and was backed by a third-party guarantee.
In fact, the consignment came on the back of the sale at
Christie's New York of Bacon's Three
Studies Of Lucian Freud which made $127m (£83m) and set a new
high for any lot ever sold at auction.
Overall, Christie's evening sale raised a total of £108.9m with
40 of the 48 lots getting away (83%). The presale estimate was
Their total was greater than the £76.3m generated at
Sotheby's evening sale the day before, even though the results
looked pretty solid here too with 47 of the 57 lots getting away
(83%). The total was also within the £68.5m-93.1m estimate.
Sotheby's top lot was Wand (Wall), a large oil on
canvas from 1994 by Gerhard Richter (b.1932). Estimated 'in excess
of £15m', it was believed the vendor was the Taiwanese businessman
Pierre Chen and the auctioneers had issued a full guarantee for
It eventually sold at £15.5m to a European private buyer.