AO Roundup: 2008 Frieze Art Fair, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips London Auctions; Art Market Inflection Point Reached

October 22nd, 2008

Duane Hanson’s “Flea Market Lady” staffs Emmanuel Perrotin’s booth at Frieze via New York Magazine

In the midst of perhaps the most spectacular global financial and credit market cave-ins ever experienced, The Frieze Art Fair in London, one of the three largest contemporary art fairs, felt a slowdown in some attendance indicators, sales volume and pricing; a harbinger of similar buyer sentiment reflected in anemic sales totals from all of the three major contemporary art auctions that followed in London over the weekend from Sotheby’s, Phillips and Christie’s respectively. In light of the true magnitude of the global wealth disrupted in recent weeks, overall, the output of the Frieze art fair and the concurrent contemporary art auctions likely could have been worse. The following is a roundup of the news and images looking back from the close of the Frieze fair as well as detailed summaries of each auction.

Takashi Murakami’s “Tongari-Kun” 2004. Though it was headliner of the Phillips Auction on Saturday, it failed to sell. Image via Phillips

Newslinks, images and more on the Frieze Art Fair and on the Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips auctions after the jump…

Articles from Bloomberg:
Shocked Collectors See Bargains as Frieze Buying Stampede Ends
October 20th
Crisis Burns Art Market: Warhol, Fontana Fail to Save Auctions October 20th
Crisis Bites Art Market as Sale Raises Less Than Third Estimate October 19th
Fontana Egg Picture Sells for 9 Million Pounds at Christie’s October 19th
Christie’s Sale Misses Target as Crisis Quells Demand (Update2) October 19th
Warhol Fails to Lift Sotheby’s Sale Above Estimate Amid Slump October 18th
Warhol `Skulls’ Silkscreen Fetches 4.4 Million Pounds (Update1) October 17th

Articles from The Financial Times:
The art market: Still plenty of gain October 18th
Fans out in full force at Frieze October 18th

Articles from The Independent:
Freud’s intimate portrait of his friend Bacon sold for £5.4m October 20th
Why a portrait of Francis Bacon terrifies us all October 19th

Articles from The Guardian UK:
Art market boom slows, but Lucian Freud’s Francis Bacon makes ‘astronomical’ £5.4m October 21th
The art market bubble bursts? October 20th
Video: Adrian Searle sweats it out at Frieze art fair October 17th
A study in Black October 16th
Before the Bubbly Starts Flowing… October 16th
Anyone for a Footrub? October 16th
Frieze framed: Art world unleashes smoke and daggers October 16th
Photo-essay: Frieze faces October 16th

Other Relevant Articles:
Sotheby’s Sale of Contemporary Art Realises $38.1 Million
[ArtDaily] October 21st

Frieze Art Fair Feels Big Chill [NYTimes] October 17th

Not a Pretty Picture at Auctions [WallStreetJournal] October 20th
Frieze Art Fair Sees Thinner Crowds and Better Bargains [WallStreetJournal] October 17th

Funereal Mood at London Auctions [Art Info] October 20th
The Era of the 5 Minute Decison is Over [Art Info] October 17th

Gilt by Association [ArtForum] October 19th

Arts sales boom may be over, but profits go on amid financial crisis [TelegraphUK] October 21st

The first major post-financial collapse art market event, The 2008 Frieze Art Fair, in London, is on right now [ArtObserved] October 17th

Viewers at Frieze via The GuardianUK

The Frieze Fair – October 15th -18th, Regents Park, London:

As previously reported by Art Observed here, the 2008 Frieze art fair, held in Regents Park, was well-curated with perhaps more mid-priced, safer-bet works than in the past, as dealers seemed to brace for the softening in the art market.

150 galleries from 27 countries sold work by over 1,000 artists at this year’s Freize. Adam Lindemann was quoted as saying: “This Frieze is the best I’ve ever seen, the dealers have made a real effort.” Deutsche Bank returned as the main sponsor alongside Associate sponsor Cartier and Media sponsor The Guardian. Attendance at the leading contemporary art fair was strong with ticket sales reportedly equalling those of 2007. The directors had this to say: “With the financial markets in turmoil we anticipated that all the galleries would still showcase the best of international contemporary art and that the usual debate and exchange of ideas which takes place each year would continue unabated, but we were aware there was concern about sales. We are pleased, therefore, that the sales the galleries have been reporting have exceeded expectations. We have been heartened by the extent of the positive reports from the US, European, Latin American as well as UK galleries. Important collectors from across the globe continued to travel to the fair.” This year, however, sales figures were not released.

The 8-foot-high stainless steel sculpture by Subodh Gupta, known as the “Damien Hirst of India” entitled ”Mind Shut Down” in the adjacent sculpture park. It sold for just over 1 million euros the Frieze Fair. Image via Bloomberg

The usual spectacles were evident. Appetite Gallery of Buenos Aires seemed to be camping out in the center of the floor in a booth strewn with sundries, coffee cups and loosely displayed art. The Icelandic artists collective Kling & Bang built a to-scale reproduction of the famous Reykjavik bar Sirkus, complete with shots served. Tue Greenfort’s “Condensation” consisted of a room and mechanism which collected moisture (mostly sweat and exhalations) from the air at the fair and bottled it. There were fully encapsulated, transparent, smoking booths. Miami-based artist Bert Rodriguez offered foot massages. The gallerist Anthony Reynolds used much of his booth for a pile of candy in shiny blue wrapping in an homage to Félix González-Torres. A group of wandering gigolos, Los Romeos, moved through the room striking up conversations with visitors in project by Dora Garcia, a Spanish artist, based on the activities of East German spies who seduced West German secretaries during the Cold War. Emmanuel Perrotin installed Duane Hanson’s lifelike sculpture, Flea Market Lady, (pictured above), which is a $575,000 hyper-realistic work of a woman surrounded by cheap art, books and relatively high-end auction catalogs.

Two of six metallic heads from an installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone in the English Gardens outside of Frieze via ThisIsLondon

Last year’s Frieze “VIP” viewing sessions, private sessions for only the most serious buyers and celebrities, included upwards of 200 people, some outfitted in athletic gear to reach booths first. This year only about 60 people showed up for the opening day.

The art boom has, as of late, been fueled by new, ultra-rich collectors entering from the Middle East, China and perhaps most significantly, Russia. However, Roman Abramovich, an archetypal Russian oligarch, who this year famously purchased $120 million worth of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud (£17.2m for Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, making Freud the highest-priced living artist at auction and £43m on Triptych (1976) making Bacon the most expensive artist ever, as detailed by Art Observed here), waited until Friday to show.

Many American buyers weren’t present, such as Beth Rudin DeWoody, Peter Brant and hedge fund managers Dan Loeb and Glenn Fuhrman.

Other bold faced names attended as well, such as Gwyneth Paltrow (with her friend Princess Rosario of Bulgaria), Sienna Miller, Kate Bosworth, Emma Watson (of the Harry Potter films), model Jacquetta Wheeler, Lily Allen (with gallerist Jay Jopling) and George Michael etc. Even Tracey Emin stopped in.

There was however a palpable lack of urgency with most buyers. No longer were collectors sprinting to bid at booths, but rather galleries and dealers were searching for ways to entice buyers, make a profit and and (cover their booth costs, which can be in the £30,000 pound range) by offering incentives such as extended payment/financing plans and discounts.

The Guardian weighs in with perhaps the most foreboding quote we’ve found on the market prognosis, which happens to be from Jessica Morgan, the Curator of Contemporary art at the Tate, who said: “There’s a lot of denial out there. The thing is that I’m about to be 40, so I have very distinct memories of the early Nineties. I left to go to the States because there were no opportunities here. But anybody younger than me has no memory of it. They think it’s going to be fine, and it’s not going to be fine. We’re about to wake up into a very different world.”

Art Info had the following quote from, Andreas Gegner, director of Monika Sprüth Philomene Magers’s London branch: “The days of the five-minute decision are over. The guideline for the future is that quality works at good prices will sell, and bad pieces won’t.”

Frieze visitors in front of a dog sculpture via The GuardianUK

A detail of work from Jake and Dinos Chapman’s model “Das Kaiptal Is Kaput (ya, Nein Dumpkoff)” at Frieze via from Graffotto UK

A visitor in front of a Cindy Sherman work at Frieze via The GuardianUK

The Auctions:

The major Auction houses, Christie’s, Phillips de Pury, and Sotheby’s each saw a significant decrease in their sale volume and price, despite lowering those estimates in anticipation of feeling the effects of the looming recession. It is widely agreed that the top of the market was likely marked by Damien Hirst’s daring and game-shifting direct to market auction in mid-September at Sotheby’s, London as covered by Art Observed here. Danish art consultant Nicolai Frahm was quoted by Bloomberg at the Phillips sale as saying:”It’s a turning point. The estimates were fairly high and the financial markets are so tough at the moment.”

The auction houses brought nearly the same number of works they had in past years, upwards of 1,000, but only auctioned a total of 182, 90 fewer than last year, finishing with a total sales volume of £59.2 million, well below their combined low-end estimate of £106.2 million. Sotheby’s sold 45 of 62 lots and fared the best, largely as a result of lowering their reserves just before the auction, finishing with a total sales value of £22.8 million, about £8 million below their minimum estimate. Christie’s grossed a total of £32 million with fees – well below their £57.8 million low-end estimate, selling 26 of 47 lots on auction. Phillips sold 38 of 70 lots for a total of £8.1 million, or about £16.9 million below its low estimate. Ed Dolman, Christie’s chief executive officer was quoted as saying “Obviously we need to adjust our prices. There isn’t too much confidence out there.” Though pricing for works sold was on the low end of estimates, or below in many cases, when compared to the prices that most of the works last traded for, profit was definitely achieved for sellers. Bloomberg quoted New York art dealer Alberto Mugrabi as saying during a Warhol bidding at Christie’s: “These are old prices, they would have to be readjusted. It can’t be readjusted for every industry in the world and not for the art market.” Full details of each auction are below.

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction – New Bond Street, London, Friday, October 17th

Total Lots Offered: 62
Total Lots Sold: 45
Total Sales Value: £22.8 million
Total Sales Pre-Auction Estimate: £30.6 million to £42.8 million

Sotheby’s held the most successful auction of the three houses, having lowered its reserve prices in secret just before auctions start. The auction was the second highest total achieved for an October sale of contemporary art at Sotheby’s. However, a total of 17 of the 62 lots failed to find buyers including some by artists such as Cindy Sherman, Sigmar Polke and Marlene Dumas. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, 40% of the buys came from Americans, up from 19% at last year’s sale.

Sotheby’s highest priced piece was Andy Warhol’s 1976 ten part series of acrylic and silk screened images of human skulls, each identical, apart from contrasting colors, entitled “Skulls” (pictured below) which sold for a single winning bid of £4.3453 million (just below its estimate of £5 to £7 million). The work was purchased by the New York dealer Alberto Mugrabi, whose family, as reported by ArtObserved in January here, already owns 800 Warhols and was presumably bidding to maintain pricing floors for his holdings. The highest price achieved for a Warhol, as reported in May by Art Observed here, was £35.7 million for Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) at Christie’s in New York last year which was four times the previous Warhol sale record.

Andy Warhol’s “Skulls” (1967) via IHT

Additionally, Gerhard Richter’s “Abstrakes Bild (rot)” sold for £2,841,250, under its estimate of £3 to £4 million. Basquiat’s “Untitled” an acrylic and oilstick and paper collage on masonite, sold for £1,609,250 in the low end of its £1.5 to £2 million range to an American telephone bidder. Damien Hirst’s, “Beautiful Jaggy Snake Charity Painting” one of his spin series, sold for £115,250, within it’s estimate of £100,000 to £150,000. Lucian Freud’s ‘Strawberries’ also sold under it’s £250,000 to £350,00 estimate for £229,250 as did Rachel Whiteread’s ‘Pressed’ which sold for £109,250 under its £120,000 to £180,000 estimate. Anthony Gormley’s Domain LXIV had a bit of bidding on it and hammered in at £193,250, exceeding its high estimate of £100,000 to £150,000.

Gerhard Richter’s “Abstrakes Bild (rot)” via IHT

Sotheby’s also had several smaller works which closed above the asking price, incuding Jenny Saville’s “Rosetta 2″ (pictured below), selling for £634,850, above a £350,000 to £450,000 estimate, Anthony Gromley’s “Domain LXIV” for £193,000, nearly double its estimate, and El Anatsui’s “Healer” (pictured below) selling for £350,000 on a £250,000 estimate. However, Sotheby’s was not immune to the recession losses, some of its biggest pieces failed to sell, including Gerhard Richter’s urban abstract painting entitled “Jerusalem” which had pre-sale projections of £5 to £7 million.

Jenny Saville’s “Rosetta 2″ via Gagosian

Anthony Gormley “Domain LXIV” via IHT

El Anatsui’s “Healer” via October Gallery

Phillips de Pury Contemporary Art Day and Evening Sale, Saturday Oct 18th 2008, London

Total Lots Offered: 70
Total Lots Sold: 38
Total Sales Value (night sale): £5 million
Total Sales Value (day sale): £3.1 million
Total Sales Value (total): £8.1 million
Total Sales Pre-Auction Estimate (night sale): £18.6 million – £27.2 million
Total Sales Pre-Auction Estimate (day sale): £6.4 million – £9.1 million
Total Sales Pre-Auction Estimate (total): £25 million – £36.3 million

While Sotheby’s lowered reserves just before the sale, and cleared a good amount of it’s inventory, Phillips de Pury, recently purchased by Russian Luxury brand the Mercury Group (as reported by AO here) did not lower reserves, and perhaps consequently, fared the poorest, with high valued works by Murakami, Warhol and Prince not selling at the auction, the results of which were described by art info as “carnage.” £5 million worth of lots sold at the evening sale against low end estimates of £18.6 million while the day sale, which featured works below £200,000, sold £3.1 million against a £6.4 million estimate. Overall this auction raised less than a third of it’s expected total with 46 percent of the lots unsold. Not one of the top 10 selling works sold at a price above its high estimate.

One particularly noteworthy failure was one of Murakami’s larger pieces, the 23-foot steel, fiberglass and paint sculpture “Tongari-Kun” 2004 (pictured below) which failed to reach its £3,500,000 to £4,500,000 estimate. In contrast, at a previous Sotheby’s auction back in May in New York, as reported by AO here, Murakami’s anime-ejaculate sculpture ‘My Lonesome Cowboy’ was estimated at $3 to $4 million but sold for $15 million which at that time was triple what the artist had previously sold for at auction. When the lot failed to sell at Phillips on Saturday, Murakami himself, who was a buyer at the auction, was in the room and let out an audible laugh.

A version of Murakami’s “Tongari-Kun” (2004 in Rockefeller Center) via Cool Hunting

Despite the buzz surrounding a monumental show currently on of contemporary Chinese Art at the new Saatchi Gallery in London as reported by AO here, the Chinese art stars did not fare well. Yue Minjun’s typical painting of a group of smiling bronze figures “Contemporary Terracotta Warriors No. 7” (2005) failed to sell. Another Chinese art star, Zhang Xiaogang, failed to sell his “Bloodlines Series: A Boy” 2002 (pictured below) as well. The paintings were estimated in the £200,000 to £450,000 range.

Zhang Xiaogang – Bloodline Series: A Boy, 2002 image via Phillips

The American artists however, were not immune, despite their pricing in reasonable £250,000 to £500,000 pound ranges: a typical 2004 Ed Ruscha (pictured below) failed to sell. It was estimated at £300,000 to £500,000. The same fate met Lisa Yuskavage’s 2003 “Dark Garden II” (pictured below) against an estimate of £250,000 to £350,000, and a 2001 painting from Richard Prince’s “Joke” series against an estimate of £400,000 to £600,000. A 1988 Donald Judd estimated at £550,000 to £750,000 was also taken back in.

Lisa Yuskavage – Dark Garden II, 2003 via Phillips

Richard Prince via Phillips

Ed Ruscha – Untitled, 2004, via Phillips

As with the other auction houses, Phillips generally saw better results at the lower end of the scale. Not a single lot sold for over a million pounds. Marlene Dumas’ “Cleaning the Pole” (pictured below) for sold for £550,000, near its high estimate of £600,000. Perhaps this success is also related to the fact that Dumas will soon be featured in a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Additionally, a Warhol work, “Flowers” 1967 (pictured below), sold for £735,650, which was the middle of its projected range of £600,000 to £800,000 but nevertheless gave it the distinction of being the top lot. It was sold to a telephone bidder.

Andy Warhol’s – “Flowers” via Phillips

Marlene Dumas – Cleaning the Pole – 2000 via Phillips

Christie’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale, King Street – London, Sunday, October 19th

Auction Date: Sunday October 19th
Total Lots Offered: 47
Total Lots Sold: 26
Total Sales Value: £32 million (with fees)
Total Sales Pre-Auction Estimate: £57.8 million – £75.6 million

The room was crowded but the mood was relatively docile at this auction. Overall, there was a lack of bidding. Christie’s Jussi Pylkkanen sold 55% of the total lots to close the auction in under and hour. Amy Cappellazzo of Christie’s was quoted by the Guardian as saying “I think this was a staggering result given the other financial markets. It’s pretty amazing that people still want to turn up on a Sunday and kick out a million bucks.”

Christie’s had some of its most valuable pieces fail to meet reserves and including Andy Warhol’s “Nine Multicolored Marilyns” (pictured below), which had a £2.2 million reserve with bids only reaching £1.85 million. Bloomberg reported that Pylkkanen looked to Alberto Mugrabi to bid but he fell short. Francis Bacon’s “Portrait of Henrietta Moses” (1969, pictured below) failing to meet its estimate of £5.5 million. A series of works in the £500,000 to £1,000,000 range by Murakami, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ed Ruscha and Jeff Koons also failed to sell. Additionally two Gerhard Richter paintings, one valued at £2 million and one at £6 million failed to move.

Andy Warhols “Nine Multicolored Marilyns” via Arcadaja Art Magazine

Francis Bacon’s “Portrait of Henrietta Moses” via Bloomberg

The top seller was Lucio Fontana’s “Concetto Spaziale, La Fine di Dio” (1963, pictured below), an egg shaped canvas, with painted black and sprinkled with glitter (more on this from Art Observed here), which sold for £9 million – still £3 million below its estimate of £12 million. The artist’s auction record still holds, as set by Sotheby’s in February when a 1963 gold work from his “Concetto Spaziale” series sold for £10.3 million. Before the auction, Christie’s announced that persons with a financial interest in the guaranteed work would be bidding. There was no demand in the room and the auctioneer provided the sole bid.

Lucio Fontana’s “Concetto Spaziale, La Fine di Dio” (1963) via Bloomberg

Following that was Francis Bacon’s “Untitled” an unfinished portrait of Lucian Freud (1956-57, pictured below) which sold for £5.4 million, and has garnered a good deal of press for doing so, above its pre-sale low estimate of £5 million but below its high estimate of £7M, to London dealer Stephen Ongpin, bidding on behalf of collector. That work is one of only two oils Bacon painted of his fellow artist (the other was stolen from an exhibition in Berlin in 1988 and has not been recovered).

Francis Bacon’s “Untitled” an unfinished portrait of Lucian Freud (1956-57) via Bloomberg

Additionally, Richard Prince’s “Dude Ranch Nurse 2″ (pictured below), which was auctioned for $2.5 million last May, sold for £3,177,250, just above its £3 million minimum.

Richard Prince’s “Dude Ranch Nurse 2″ via Christie’s

Gerhard Richter’s “Claudius” which failed to sell at Christie’s via the Guardian

Further Links:
Frieze Art Fair
[Official Site]
Christie’s [Official Site]
Sotheby’s [Official Site]
Phillips de Pury [Official Site]