AO Auction Recap – London: Contemporary Evening Auctions, February 10th-13th, 2014

February 13th, 2014

Francis Bacon, Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966), via Christie's
Francis Bacon, Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966), via Christie’s

Another week of contemporary art auctions have come and gone, with a number of high-profile works changing hands in London this week, and a number of new records being for artists across the board.  All auction houses boasted strong sales results, with Christie’s once again taking the lead.

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild 776-1 (1992), via Phillips
Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild 776-1 (1992), via Phillips

The auctions began this past Monday at Phillips, where a mix of young artists vied against contemporary mainstays in a sale that brought in a respectable $17,006, 198 for the thirty-two lot offering.  Christopher Wool’s Untitled (P492) was among the highest selling works, pulling in $2.1 million, just over its $1.97 million high estimate, while Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild piece was the leading sale, as expected, with a final price of $3.14 million.  Three records were also set for artists.  Mark Flood’s 2009 work Pink Summer Day commanded a new record for the artist at $131,215, as did newcomer Fredrik Vaerslev, selling for $79,463.  Nate Lowman also set a record for his untitled work, selling for $864,715.

Nate Lowman, Untitled Marilyn #13 (2012), via Phillips
Nate Lowman, Untitled Marilyn #13 (2012), via Phillips

Gerhard Richter, Wand (1994), via Sotheby's
Gerhard Richter, Wand (1994), via Sotheby’s

On February 12th, the auctions continued at Sotheby’s, where a 57 lot auction brought in $146 million (10 lots went unsold), just under the high estimate for the auction of $153.1 million.  Gerhard Richter’s Wand met all expectations at auction, selling for a final price of $28.6 million, just over the anticipated $25 million the work was expected to achieve.  Strong bidding for Cy Twombly’s Rome drove prices far beyond estimate, settling at a final price of $20 million over its $8.1 – $11.4 million estimate, and just below the artist’s record at auction.

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Rome) (1964), via Sotheby's
Cy Twombly, Untitled (Rome) (1964), via Sotheby’s

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lei e Lui- Maria e Michelangelo (1968), via Christie's
Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lei e Lui- Maria e Michelangelo (1968), via Christie’s

As anticipated, Arte Povera works did quite well over the week of sales.  Christie’s sale of works from the collection of Nerio and Marina Fossati commanded impressive numbers, including a world-record sale of Alberto Burri’s Combustine Plastica, purchased by the Nahmand Gallery for the sum of $7.5 million.  The Nahmad family also made a move on Sotheby’s offering of Burri’s Rosso Plastica, which commanded a respectable price of $6.1 million in its own right.  Other strong sales went to Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Lei e Lui- Maria e Michelangelo, which also set an auction record for the artist at $3.25 million.

Alberto Burri, Combustione Plastica (1960-61), via Christie's
Alberto Burri, Combustione Plastica (1960-61), via Christie’s

Gerhard Richter, Abstratkes Bild (1989), via Christie's
Gerhard Richter, Abstratkes Bild (1989), via Christie’s

As anticipated, Christie’s brought in impressive sales for its 48-lot offering tonight, far exceeding Sotheby’s sales figures with a final tally of $206.8 million.  The remarkable sale was bolstered by a pair of high-achieving paintings by Richter and Francis Bacon, both of which achieved their predicted estimates and then some.  Richter’s 1989 abstract sold for a final tally of over $32 million, beating out the sale of Wand across town at Sotheby’s (both works were anticipated to sell for about $25 million), and Bacon’s Portrait Of George Dyer sold for a new world record of $69.3 million.  Other records set at auction included a $6 million final price for a 1957 Pierre Soulages.

Pierre Soulages, Peinture (1957), via Christie's
Pierre Soulages, Peinture (1957), via Christie’s

As the week of auctions wraps up, the attention will shift back to New York in several weeks for a set of auctions around the events of the 2014 Armory Show.

—D. Creahan

Read More:
Christie’s Contemporary Evening Auction Results [Christie’s]
Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction Results [Sotheby’s]
Phillips Contemporary Evening Auction Results [Phillips]
“A Small Bang at Phillips Contemporary in London” [ArtInfo]
“Richter Painting Leads Phillips’s $17 Million London Sale”  [Bloomberg]
“Warhol’s Mao to Red Richter Lift $146 Million London Sale” [Bloomberg]
“London Auction Houses See High Prices for Contemporary Art” [New York Times]