David Hockney’s ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)’ that sold for $80m (£61.6m) at Christie’s in New York.

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Hockney sets record for living artist

The latest series of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art auctions in New York generated an overall total of close to $2bn last week.

The sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips were running at a combined $1.89bn (£1.46bn) including premium, with one-day sale still to come as ATG went to press.

This figure was roughly in line with the equivalent sales in November 2017.

Last year’s sales posted $2.28bn, or $1.83bn if you remove the $450m generated by Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi, an Old Master painting that, exceptionally, was offered in a Contemporary art sale at Christie’s.

The stand-out price of the week at the current series again came at Christie’s as David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) from 1972 became the most expensive work by a living artist when it was knocked down for $80m (£61.6m) on November 15.

The 7ft x 10ft (2.14 x 3.05m) acrylic on canvas was described by the auctioneers as “an immediately recognisable and iconic image in Hockney’s diverse oeuvre”.

It was used on the front cover of the catalogue for the dedicated Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain last year.

The price surpassed the previous record for a living artist – the $58.4m (including buyer’s premium) for a Jeff Koons balloon dog sold at Christie’s New York in November 2013.

Rupert Wace bows out of dealing

Rupert Wace Ancient Art will close at the end of this year after more than 30 years in the trade. Director Wace is now offering his recently renovated gallery, a freehold townhouse in St James’s, as a commercial let for a three to five-year lease.

He told ATG: “It may well be interpreted as a form of retirement, although my interest in the subject continues and various research projects that I plan are related.”

British Art Fair and Frieze coincide

The British Art Fair (BAF) is to coincide with Frieze London, running from October 3-5 next year at the Saatchi Gallery.

The shift is calculated to boost attendance and attract both UK and international buyers. BAF is also inviting applications from foreign galleries for the next edition.

Fair director Robert Sandelson said: “Early indications are that the fair will be again heavily oversubscribed.”

Simon Spero retires after 54-year career

English porcelain specialist Simon Spero is retiring after a professional career lasting 54 years. A retirement party was held for the well-known dealer at Bonhams Knightsbridge on November 12.


English porcelain specialist Simon Spero who is retiring.

The choice of venue was particularly apt: Spero had made his first ever auction purchase there in 1963 when the saleroom was named Puttick & Simpson.

He opened his first shop dealing exclusively in English 18th century porcelain the following year.

Earlier this year he sold his personal collection of English blue and white porcelain at a special exhibition, the last of more than 40 scholarly shows he has put on.

Marie Antoinette pearl sparkles

A pearl and diamond pendant from the French Queen Marie Antoinette’s personal collection has set a record price at auction for a natural pearl.

Estimated at SFr1m-2m, it drew intense bidding at Sotheby’s Geneva before it sold at SFr36.4m (£27.8m), including buyer’s premium, at the November 14 auction.

It sold to a European private buyer and easily surpassed the previous high for a natural pearl: $11.8m (£7.6m) for 16th century pearl belonging to Elizabeth Taylor that sold at Christie’s New York in December 2011.


The pearl and diamond pendant once owned by Marie Antoinette, which sold for SFr36.4m (£27.8m) at Sotheby’s Geneva.

It was part of a collection of 100 lots of royal jewels that came to auction from the Bourbon- Parma family. Ten of the pieces had once belonged to Marie Antoinette, all of which attracted strong competition.

The items had survived the French Revolution by being dispatched secretly to Brussels. They were sent to Vienna, into the safekeeping of the emperor, Marie-Antoinette’s nephew.

Overall the collection raised SFr53.5m (£40.8m), with all 100 lots selling.

Wonnacott sells his own collection

Tim Wonnacott is to sell his collection of more than 250 items at a Sworders auction in Stansted Mountfitchet.

The first tranche will be offered on December 4-5, with other selected items appearing in subsequent Sworders auctions in 2019.

Wonnacott, who presented BBC’s Bargain Hunt for 13 years and is a former divisional chairman of Sotheby’s, amassed items on his travels around fairs while filming for the popular TV show.

Last week’s (ATG No 2367) advert for the Rowley’s auction in Newmarket on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 20-21, should have included the following viewing times: Sunday, November 18, 10am-1pm; Monday, November 19, 9am- 5pm; Tuesday, November 20, 9am-5pm; and morning of the sale 9-10am.

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In Numbers


The total number of lots sold at Christie’s Ebsworth Collection auction in New York that were recorded on blockchain. Each lot has been recorded on a secure digital registry run by Artory and each buyer received a registration card to access the encrypted record of information about their purchased artwork.

Blockchain is an online public ledger of data and Christie’s said this sale “marks the first time an art auction at this price level has been recorded on a blockchain”.


'Chop Suey' by Edward Hopper, an oil on canvas painted in 1929, which sold for $85m (£65.4m) at Christie’s sale of the Barney A Ebsworth collection.