Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Thanks to the success of the Frieze art fair, held for the fourth time this month, October has suddenly become a crucial month for London’s salerooms. From a near standing start last year, when the two sales that capitalised on the number of dealers and collectors who visit the vast Regent’s Park fair totalled a respectable £15m, this year three London rooms racked up a collective £57m (premium-inclusive).

Recognising that Frieze has now established itself as one of the three most important Contemporary art fairs in the world, both Sotheby’s and Christie’s upped the status of these ‘mid-season’ events with multiple catalogues.

A week of sales began on Friday, October 13 with a premium-free benefit event at Sotheby’s to raise funds for the Whitechapel Art Gallery expansion project.

Work by 62 artists had been donated by former exhibitors and, in keeping with a week when younger, living artists dominated, the total of £2.78m outstripped expectations. It was followed by day and evening sales of Contemporary art that realised premium-inclusive totals of £7.24m and £9.93m respectively and included records for Antony Gormley and Tang Zhigang.

Sotheby’s grand total of £20m eclipsed the £9.3m generated last year and was complemented by a sale of 20th century Italian art that established 12 new artists records and a total of £11.5m.

But these figures were bettered by Christie’s who generated £28.4m from four separate catalogues – a massive increase on the £6m they posted in 2005. Italian art on Monday, October 16 included a record £1.9m for Lucia Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attesse, 1963 and added a further £15.66m to the haul.

Bonhams are yet to catch this lucrative train (their main attraction last week was a private exhibition given over to the Sevso Treasure) but Phillips de Pury & Co certainly have.

They roared back onto the London saleroom scene on the evening of Saturday, October 14 with an £8.59m sale at their new headquarters – a former post office sorting station in Victoria turned into a vast 40,000 sq ft shabby-chic gallery space.

Only three of the 71 lots in this mix of Contemporary art and design failed to sell and a dozen artist records were followed by an after party with an hour-long set from 80s favourites The Human League.