With the audience being described as “dazed” and “fatigued,” excitement was sparse at yesterday evening’s Contemporary Art auction at Sotheby’s in London. The sale realized a total of £41,091,800, well within the £32-52 million estimate (total realized includes buyer’s premium, estimates do not). The sale had a sell-through rate of 83% by lot and 87.3% by value, while 45.4% of lots sold above their high estimates.
The headlining work, Yves Klein’s RE 49, sold for just over £6 million (estimate £4.5-6.5 million) after three minutes of bidding from four interested buyers. The other Klein canvas for sale yesterday evening, MG 42, realized a price of £481,250, above its pre-sale estimate of £200,000-300,000. Though the works performed reasonably well, there is still concern that the market might be tiring of them. “There are too many Kleins and Fontanas in these auctions,” Dusseldorf-based art adviser Jorg-Michael Bertz said, in conversation with Bloomberg reporter Scott Reyburn. “We need a rest from them.”
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Of the 11 lots with the highest pre-sale estimates, two failed to sell (one of two Gerhardt Richters titled Abstraktes Bild and Peter Doig’s White Creep), while only one achieved a hammer price above pre-sale estimates. Frank Auerbach’s Mornington Crescent-Summer Morning, estimated to fetch between £1.5-2 million, sold for £2,281,250.
Other School of London artists performed well, too. Leon Kossoff’s King’s Cross, March Afternoon brought £457,250 (estimate £250,000-350,000), establishing a new record for the artist at auction.
Bharti Kher’s immense sculpture of a dying elephant, The Skin Speaks a Language Not Its Own, sold for just under £1 million, within the pre-sale estimate but also setting a record not only for the artist at auction, but also for any work by a Contemporary female Indian artist at auction.
However, the Kher sale was the exception, rather than the rule. For the most part, buyers stuck to post-war works by long-established favorites. Of the four Warhols for sale, three found buyers. Three Jackies was picked up by Larry Gagosian for just over £1.5 million (estimate £1.5-2 million). One of the two Self Portraits sold to Jose Mugrabi, who also purchased both Basquiats for sale last night.
Sotheby’s Evening Contemporary Art Auction Results [Sothebys.com]
Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Auction Realises $62 Million-Within Pre-Sale Expectations [Artdaily.org]
Sotheby’s London Contemporary Evening Sale Totals $61.8 M. Yves Klein is Top Lot [Lindsaypollack.com]
Sotheby’s Sale Leaves Its Audience Dazed [Nytimes.com]
Fontana, Richter Boost $62 Million Art Auction as Buyers Go Back to 1960s [Bloomberg.com]