The pound fell to a 31-year low against the dollar over the course of last week which encouraged bidding from the US and Asia in particular.
The overall total for the week at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips was £196m including premium. This compared to £233.4m from the equivalent series last year although the current total included an additional £28.3m from Christie’s sale of works from the collection of the late dealer Leslie Waddington.
The total was broadly equivalent to the 2014 levels although it was achieved from over 15% fewer lots.
The sale rates were strong across the board including at Sotheby’s Contemporary art evening sale on October 7. With only 34 lots on offer, this was one of the slimmest evening auctions in this category since the Frieze fair launched in London in 2003. On the night, 31 lots sold and the 91% selling rate was highest for any Contemporary art sale at Sotheby’s London saleroom since 2011.
The hammer total of £41.2m exceeded the £23m-32m presale estimate. This compared to the £28.8m hammer total at Christie’s contemporary art evening sale the previous evening, achieved from 41 lots.
Sotheby’s sale was led by Hannibal, an acrylic, oilstick and paper collage on canvas from 1982 by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Exceeding a £3.5m-4.5m estimate, it was knocked down to a European private buyer at £9.3m, posting the highest price for any work of art sold at London’s ‘Frieze’ week auctions.
A European private buyer also secured Gerhard Richter’s Garten, an oil on canvas in two parts, also from 1982. Having last changed hands in 1987, it was estimated here at £3m-4m but sold at £9m.
Meanwhile, an Asian bidder bought Peter Doig’s Grasshopper, an oil on canvas from 1990, which was pitched at £2.8m-3.5m but sold at £5.1m.
Strong Asian interest also arrived at Sotheby’s Contemporary art day sale with six of the top ten lots acquired by collectors from the region, including the auction’s top lot: Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin AHT from 1991 that fetched £540,000. From the artist’s Infinity series, it was estimated at £150,000-200,000.
The sale also posted a strong sum for British artist Grayson Perry. Punters in the Snow, a glazed earthenware pot from 1999, exceed a £25,000-35,000 estimate and was knocked down at £90,000, an auction record for the famous cross-dressing ceramic artist and printmaker.