The total from last week’s Contemporary art auctions in London may have been a far cry from the record New York series in May where $1.57bn (£975m) of art changed hands, but there was still plenty of action as the market continued on its current buoyant course.
With international bidding coming from
Europe, North America and Asia, the total of just over £207m from
four auctioneers - Sotheby's, Christie's, Phillips and Bonhams -
was in excess of the £169.5m seen for the equivalent series last
Both Sotheby's and Christie's had
works by Francis Bacon (1909-92) and Peter Doig (b.1959) as their
top two lots - the four works raising a combined £50.25m, a large
chunk of the series total.
Sotheby's led the week with Bacon's Three Studies for
Portrait of George Dyer, a small-scale triptych from 1964 and
one of five such paintings of his lover that exist in this format.
This 14 x 12in (36 x 30cm) oil on canvas was on a light ground (the
others either have black or pink backgrounds) and was one of three
that remain in private hands.
It came to auction from a European
vendor who had purchased it from Galleria Galatea in Turin in 1970
and was estimated at £15m-20m.
In the event, four bidders were in
contention but it eventually came down to a battle between two
phone bidders, one being a European collector giving instructions
to Helena Newman, the chairman of Sotheby's Impressionist and
Modern art department in Europe, and an Asian client bidding
through Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby's Asia.
The hammer fell to the former at
£23.75m, the highest auction sum for a small-scale Bacon triptych,
beating the £20.5m seen for the Portrait of Lucian Freud (in 3
parts) also from 1964 which sold at Sotheby's London in
The sum helped Sotheby's evening sale
on June 30 to an £80.7m hammer total against presale expectations
of £67.9m-89.7m. On the night, 51 of the 59 lots got away
The following day,
Christie's post-War and Contemporary art evening sale on July 1
was led by a single small-scale portrait study of Lucian Freud by
Bacon that came from the collection of the writer Roald Dahl who
died in 1990. The work had been purchased by Dahl in 1967, the year
it was painted, for £2850 using proceeds from the previous year's
first British publication of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
While no estimate was published, the
lot had been fully guaranteed by the auctioneers but again four
bidders pursued it. It was knocked down at £10.2m to an
unidentified bidder in the room but the auctioneers stated after
the sale that it sold to a European private buyer. The underbidder
was also on the phone bidding through Xin Li, deputy chairman of
If Sotheby's had the better of the
Bacons, then Christie's had the pick of the Doigs. Sotheby's had
set a record £7.5m when a large-scale painting of a tunnel in
Toronto, Canada, Country-rock (wing-mirror) from 1999,
sold to an anonymous phone buyer, but this was trumped the day
after when Christie's saw Gasthof, an equally large oil on
canvas from 2002-04, sell at £8.8m.
Around six parties were bidding on
this work, estimated at £3m-5m, and after a lengthy competition it
was sold to dealer Larry Gagosian. The picture itself was a
dream-like image of two figures in theatrical costume, one of whom
was the artist himself. Self-portraits are rare in Doig's
While numerous lesser-known artists
were taken to phenomenal levels at these sales, the auction series
will no doubt be best remembered by the wider public for the sale
of one of this country's most famous pieces of Contemporary
Christie's evening auction featured
Tracy Emin's (b.1963) My Bed - the Turner
Prize-shortlisted installation that has garnered huge media
attention ever since it was created in 1998. It was on view in the
ante-room immediately outside the saleroom and the artist herself
was also present, recording the bidding on her mobile phone and
joining in the applause when the hammer came down.
With the proceeds going to the Saatchi
Gallery Foundation, My Bed drew competition over the
£800,000-1.2m estimate before it was knocked down to Emin's dealer
Jay Jopling at £2.2m.
The price was one of seven artist's
records at Christie's evening sale which, overall, generated a
hammer total of £85.7m against an £80m-114.8m presale estimate with
63 of the 75 lots (84%) finding buyers.
The buyer's premium for all the sales
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