Wednesday - 17 September 2014

Bacon helps set record for London Contemporary series

18 February 2014Written by Alex Capon

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 £150m.

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 both series.

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 £87m-107.5m.

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 this lot.

It eventually sold at £15.5m to a European private buyer.

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Back to top