AO Auction Preview – London: Contemporary Evening Sales, October 14th – 17th, 2015

October 12th, 2015

Agnes Martin, Untitled (1999-2000), via Sotheby's
Agnes Martin, Untitled (1999-2000), via Sotheby’s

With the opening days of the Frieze art fair in London also come the annual fall auctions at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, launching another season of marquee sales at the auction houses.  Starting on October 14th, one day after the fair opens its doors for the VIP viewing, the sales will offer a second opportunity for collectors to vie for top works.

Tauba Auerbach, Fold (2011), via Phillips
Tauba Auerbach, Fold (2011), via Phillips

The sales begin at Phillips on October 14th, as the smaller auction house brings forth a series of impressive lots that continue its push to compete at the top tier of the market against its larger rivals.  The sale is anchored by an impressive Cy Twombly from late in the artist’s career.  Bearing similar gestural elements to the artist’s celebrated Blackboard works, Twombly’s untitled 2006 piece boasts an £8,000,000 – 12,000,000 initial estimate, an impressive price tag that places it head and shoulders against the next highest lot, Mark Bradford’s Constitution IV, which will nevertheless push towards the artist’s previous auction record of $4.3 million with its £2,000,000 – £3,000,000 estimate.  A Tauba Auerbach Fold will also push for a new record for the artist with a £1,200,000 – £1,800,000 estimate, rounding out the high end of the sale.

Mark Bradford, Constitution IV (2013), via Phillips
Mark Bradford, Constitution IV (2013), via Phillips

Cy Twombly, Untitled (2006), via Phillips
Cy Twombly, Untitled (2006), via Phillips

One night later, Sotheby’s will launch a notably subdued sale given the fireworks of its previous marquee auctions, hinting at perhaps a drop-off in enthusiasm for the secondary market in recent months, or a marshaling of works for the New York sale next month.  The sale is led by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s The Black Athlete, a vivid piece from the height of the artist’s talents, estimated at £3,500,000 — £4,500,000.  It’s followed by an impressive Agnes Martin composition from the artist’s later career, with its faint lines and subdued palette creating a dizzying sense of vertigo.  The work is estimated at £2,500,000 — £3,500,000.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (The Black Athlete) (1982), via Sotheby's
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (The Black Athlete) (1982), via Sotheby’s

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (1992), via Christie's
Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (1992), via Christie’s

Similarly, Christie’s will bring forward a subdued 55 lot sale that boasts a Peter Doig work as its top lot, a painterly documentation of the artist’s role in helping to refurbish Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation at Briey-en-Forêt in France.  The work’s price is unlisted, hinting at the continuously increasing enthusiasm for Doig’s work at auction, while it remains to be seen if the artist’s record of nearly $26 million will fall.  The work is joined at the top of the sale by a series of contemporary mainstays, including the token Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild (£1,800,000 – £2,500,000) and a flurried series of Martin Kippenberger celebrity portraits.

As previously noted, the auctions kick off on October 14th.  Art Observed will be covering live on Twitter and Instagram.

Peter Doig, Cabin Essence (1993-1994), via Christie's
Peter Doig, Cabin Essence (1993-1994), via Christie’s

Read more:
Phillips Contemporary Evening Sale [Phillips]
Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale [Sotheby's]
Christie’s Contemporary Evening Sale [Christie's]