A couple of lots sold recently underl ined this, most prominently the auction of one of the artist’s most famous works, Going to the Match, which fetched a record price for the artist at Christie’s.
Offered at the Modern British & Irish Art evening sale on October 19 with a £5m-8m estimate, it drew a competition between three bidders, two on the phone and one in the room, before it was knocked down to the room bidder at £6.6m.
The winning bid was placed by Julia Fawcett, chief executive of The Lowry in Salford, who was sitting in the front row of the Christie’s saleroom alongside the museum’s director of visual art Michael Simpson.
The gallery paid £7.8m (including fees) after receiving a gift from the Law Family Charitable Foundation, set up by the hedge fund manager Andrew Law and his wife, Zoë.
Following the sale, Fawcett said: “This evening, thanks to an incredibly generous gift from The Law Fami ly Charitable Foundation, we are delighted to have purchased Going to the Match for the city’s collection of LS Lowry works. We look forward to bringing it home to Salford, where it can continue to delight and attract visitors to the Andrew and Zoë Law Galleries at The Lowry.”
The painting from 1953 showing fans flocking towards a stadium outscored the previous auction record for Lowry, The Football Match from 1949 which sold for £5m in the same rooms in 2011.
Going to the Match was reappearing at auction having sold at Sotheby’s for £1.75m in 1999. Back then, it was bought by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) which placed it on loan at The Lowry when that opened in 2000.
Here it was being sold on behalf of The Players Foundation, a charity dedicated to footballers’ welfare formerly known as the Professional Footballers’ Association Charity, but no longer under the umbrella of the PFA.
The work itself is the largest example from a group of Lowry paintings depicting sporting scenes and venues.
Going to the Match was painted for an exhibition in 1953 sponsored by The Football Association, where Lowry won f irst prize. He depicted Burnden Park, former home of Bolton Wanderers.
Meanwhile, a Lowry seascape from the early 1940s sold for £840,000 at Tennants in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, on October 15. The auction house said it sold to a European buyer.
The price paid including 22% buyer’s premium was £1.07m, which was the highest for any picture sold at Tennants and the second-highest price for any lot at the saleroom.
While the majority of Lowry’s seascapes depict the north-west coast in places such as Lytham and Rhyl, the 1966 painting at Leyburn, titled The North Sea, was inspired by his visits to the Seaburn Hotel in Sunderland where he always stayed in the same room which looked straight out at the North Sea.
While his earlier pictures focused on seafronts bustling with holiday makers, from the early 1940s he began to paint pure seascapes with nothing but sea and sky.
Lowry wrote: “I started to paint the sea, nothing but the sea. But a sea with no shore and nobody sailing on it…. Look at my seascapes, they don’t really exist you know, they’re just an expression of my own loneliness.”
This particular painting was last seen on public view in an exhibition in 1967 and came fresh to the market from the collection of a lady in the north-west of England.
According to Tennants, she knew Lowry and would meet the artist in Morecambe, later recounting his delight in the simple pleasures of eating ice cream and his visible enjoyment of the seaside town.