The final auction hammers have fallen for the first half of 2013, concluding June’s London auction weeks. While the results of this week’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s were solid, final sales events before the summer break showed a marked tapering off in both sales prices and quantities. With the bountiful auctions, events and fairs, including the $1.1 billion New York auctions, Frieze New York, Art Basel Hong Kong, and the Venice Biennale with its record 86,000 attendance count.
Sotheby’s continued to hold a slight lead on Christie’s, following last week’s Impressionist and Modern Evening Sales. Sotheby’s secured a $116.8 million total, squarely in the middle of its $101.2 million to $144.9 million estimate, with only 15 of the 68 pieces going unsold. Two pieces passed the ten million dollar mark, and 26 were sold for more than one million dollars. Sotheby’s officials claimed bidders from 38 countries, the broadest participation they had ever seen at a sale of contemporary art in London. Meanwhile, Christie’s sales totaled $108.4 million, within its $86.4 million to $112 million estimate. Of the 64 works at the auction, 14 failed to sell. Overall, the sale sold 90% by value and 80% by lot.
Jean-Michel Basquiat continued to make his presence felt in the secondhand market. Christie’s sold the late artist’s work Untitled (1982) for an impressive $29 million, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of $24.7 million. An unidentified seller bought the piece for $1.7 million in 2002, showcasing the considerable markup Basquiat has seen in recent years. Conversely Sotheby’s failed to sell ‘Quij’ (1985) and ‘Hoax’ (1983), and Phillips sold ‘Three Ponticators’ (1984) for $3.3 million, below its low estimate of $3.8 million.
Highlights of the Christie’s sale included Roy Lichtenstein’s Cup of Coffee (1961), which sold for $4.2 million, surprassing its pre-sale estimate of $3 million. Additionally, Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XXXVIII sold at $4.4 million; and Yves Klein’s SE 181 fetched $4.1 million, exceeding its high estimate of $2.7 million. Notably, Eduardo Chillida’s 17-ton, eight meter-high sculpture, Buscando la Luz IV (2001), sold for more than $6.2 million, setting an auction record for the Spanish Basque artist. Scottish-born Peter Doig’s piece Jetty (1994) also achievers a strong sale, going for $11.1 million to an unidentified telephone bidder. The canvas had never before been offered at auction and had a pre-sale estimate of $6.1 million to $9.1 million. Meanwhile, Andy Warhol’s Colored Campbell’s Soup Can (1965) did not meet its low estimate of $3.4 million and was left unsold.
Francis Outred, International Director and Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, said, ‘Overall the auction showed an intelligent, solid market and a depth of global bidding, which is a testament to the worldwide interest in Post-War and Contemporary Art.”
The major sales of the Sotheby’s auction were two influential paintings by Francis Bacon, both sold by New York-based dealer William Acquavella. Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne,’ (1966) a triptych of Rawsthorne, an artist who was Giacometti’s lover prior to meeting Bacon and becoming his confidante and muse. Between 1965 and 1968, Bacon painted five triptych studies of Rawsthorne. During the sale a bidding war ensued between two bidders, with Alex Corcoran of the Lefevre Gallery in London emerging victorious at price of $17.3 million. Unlike many of the other high-priced lots, the triptych was not subject to guarantees; as such, the auction house’s return was maximized. Bacon’s other piece, Head III (1949), sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for $16.1 million, well above its pre-sale high estimate of $10.8 million.
British artist David Hockney’s works brought higher than expected prices at the Soheby’s auction, which followed his highly successful exhibition at the Royal Academy, London in 2012, and inspired a bidding war over A Small Sunbather’ (1967). Formerly owned by recently deceased collector Stanley J. Seeger, the work sold to a telephone bidder for $1.7 million. The painting, featuring one of Hockney’s celebrated subjects, swimming pools, was estimated at $467,000 to $780,000. Furthermore, Double East Yorkshire (1998) had been estimated to sell for $3.1 million to $4.6 million and went to another telephone bidder for $5.3 million.
Alongside numerous British artists, the Sotheby’s auction had an international assortment of blue-chip names, including Lucio Fontana, Andreas Gursky and John Currin. Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Le Chiese di Venezia, a 1961 canvas inspired by the churches in Venice, which was expected to fetch $6.2 million to $9.3 million, went to a telephone bidder for $6.8 million. ‘Concetto Spaziale, Attese,’ a white canvas with slashes that was expected to bring $5.1 million to $7 million, fetched $6.7 million by an anonymous telephone bidder. Gursky’s five stock exchanges photos also sold well. Greg Coffey, a former hedge fund manager from London, previously owned the photographs, and had unsuccessfully offered them as a as a single sale to galleries previously. At auction, they managed to find a home, however, and raised $8.3 million in total, with the highest-priced, Chicago Board of Trade III, estimated at $935,000 to $1.2 million, selling to a telephone bidder for $3.3 million, setting as auction record for Gursky
Phillips also saw moderate sales during their auctions this evening in London. The auction house’s 27 lot auction managed to sell nearly all of its works available, including a large-scale painting by Rudolf Stingel (on the heels of the artist’s major exhibition in Venice), and a large-scale painting by Glenn Brown which took its influence a classic work by Salvador Dali.
With the conclusion of the auction week, all three houses will prepare for the fall auctions later this year, beginning in late September.
Francis Bacon’s Works Steal the Sale at Sotheby’s in London [NY Times]
Bacon Triptych Makes $17.3 Million, Hedge Fund Man Sells Photos [Business Week]
Sotheby’s Sale Underlines Recovery [Wall Street Journal]
Basquiat painting steals the limelight at Christie’s record-breaking £70m post-war and contemporary sale [The Independent]
Basquiat Sells for $29 Million, Contemporary Sales Start [Bloomberg]
Basquiat Brightens Christie’s Sale [Wall Street Journal]
Art Fatigue in London [NY Times]
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Main Site – Christie’s
Main Site – Phillips