Sigmar Polke, Dschungel (Jungle), 1967 (est. $5-6.5 million, realized $9.2 million), via Sothebys.com
Sotheby’s evening sale of Contemporary art on Wednesday night brought this round of summer sales to a close and removed any lingering doubt about the art market’s recovery. Eighty-one of 88 lots offered brought in $174 million against a high estimate of $168.5 million and set a record for any auction the company has staged in London. The results were boosted by the inclusion of thirty-four works belonging to Count Christian Duerckheim, a German industrialist who collected German art religiously and often befriended artists he patronized. The Duerckheim lots, which had the benefit not just of quality and freshness but also storied provenance, were all sold during the first portion of the auction and fetched $97 million against a high estimate of $74 million. Leading the collection was Sigmar Polke‘s dotted Dschungel of 1967 which sold for $9.2 million and set the artist’s auction record.
As at Christie’s Tuesday night, top lot honors went to Francis Bacon. Crouching Nude – a painting of a nude woman in the artist’s contorted style – achieved a price close to its low estimate of $11 million. It sold for $11.8 million, or $13.3 million with fees.
A 1981 Basquiat expected to bring up to $11.5 million sold for $8.7 million. The sum, which includes fees, just surpassed the low estimate of $8.2 million and represented a small return on the $7.8 million it was purchased for in the boom year of 2007.
Interest in the German works seemed to diminish Andy Warhol‘s role as auction king, at least (and most probably) temporarily. Estimates for two of the artists works placed them within the top five lots, but neither made the top five at the auction’s close. A portrait of rocker Debbie Harry that carried an estimate of $5.8-9 million fetched $6.2 million. More surprisingly, bidding stopped at $4.8 million for a 1962 Campbell’s soup can that was expected to bring at least $5.8 million. It was bought it.
Georg Baselitz, Spekulatius, 1965 (est. $3.3-5 million, realized $5.2 million), via Sothebys.com
The Duerckheim triumvirate of Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, and Sigmar Polke commanded seven of the top ten prices. Two works by Richter estimated to bring up to about $3 million sold for more than twice that once fees were added. Madchen im Liegestuhl (Girl in Deckchair) fetched $6.5 million, and a sought-after color chart was purchased for $6.9 million. Georg Baselitz’s auction record was set when his frontal portrait of a man with an erection sold for $5.2 million.
This round of auctions confirmed what many suspected about the state of the art market. The money is there, but the squeeze of the recession has for the most part kept buyers discerning. The Impressionst & Modern and Contemporary departments will get busy again in the fall with the October sales in London and November sales in New York.
Sotheby’s Results [Sotheby's]
Strong Sales in London for Some German Artists [NYT]
Art Price Rise at $175 Million Sale Puts Contemporary Market Back at Peak [Bloomberg]
German Artists Sparked a Buying Blitz at Sotheby’s Record $174 Million London Contemporary Sale [ARTINFO]