AO Auction Preview – London: Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sales, March 7th – 8th, 2017

March 7th, 2017

Mark Rothko, No. 1 (1949), via Christie's
Mark Rothko, No. 1 (1949), via Christie’s

With the proceedings of the Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale concluded this past week, attention turns to London’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sales, as a trio of auctions will look to test the waters in the early months of 2017.  Boasting an impressively strong focus in particular on German art, the auction houses will seek strong results in a market that has seen noticeably turbulent, unpredictable results in the past months.  Yet a recent bump in the London art market, driven by the weak pound, may see some unexpected results for the week’s offerings.  Either way, the week should see each auction house battling it out for market share through aggressive guarantees. 

Peter Doig, Cobourg 3 + 1 More (1994), via Christie's
Peter Doig, Cobourg 3 + 1 More (1994), via Christie’s

Following up on its unexpectedly buoyant performance from the week prior, Christie’s will launch its 61-lot sale at its 8 King Street Headquarters, featuring a balanced sale of works including several high-profile lots rounded out by a series of modestly priced lots.  At the forefront is an early abstraction by Mark RothkoNo. 1 (1949), which could likely push past £20m during the evening’s proceedings.  The work is followed close behind by a Peter Doig work from 1994, which boasts an estimate of 8,000,000 – £12,000,000, an estimate that could see the artist topping his auction record if bidding continues proves to be strong.  The sale will also see a test of the market for Jean Dubuffet, whose Être et paraître (To Be and to Seem) will look to hit a £7,000,000 – £10,000,000 price range.

Jean Dubuffet, Être et paraître (To Be and to Seem) (1963), via Christie's
Jean Dubuffet, Être et paraître (To Be and to Seem) (1963), via Christie’s

Rudolf Stingel, Untitled (Plan B) (2008), via Phillips
Rudolf Stingel, Untitled (Plan B) (2008), via Phillips

The following evening doubles down on sales, as Phillips and Sotheby’s go back to back on their respective marquee sales in London.  The evening begins at Phillips, where the auction house is boasting a 30-lot offering, which should offer a look at the auction house’s ongoing attempts to break up the market dominance of Christie’s and Sotheby’s.  Holding to steady sales and strong lots, the auction this week will be one of the more subdued events, but indicate how Edward Dolman strategies are paying off.  The sale is topped by works from Rudolf Stingel and Miquel Barceló, both estimated at £2,500,000 – £3,500,000, as well as a Christopher Wool piece, priced at £1,200,000 – £1,800,000.

Miquel Barceló, Muletero (1990), via Phillips
Miquel Barceló, Muletero (1990), via Phillips

Gerhard Richter, Eisberg (1982), via Sothebys
Gerhard Richter, Eisberg (1982), via Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s, on the other hand, is making a particularly emphatic push on this sluggish market, guaranteeing over 40% of its pre-sale estimate, signaling an aggressive stance on gaining market share that could prove risky for the company.  The 64-lot sale is led by a Jean-Michel Basquiat composition from 1982, a vivid, slender painting that carries a pre-sale estimate of £14,000,000 – £18,000,000.  It is joined near the top of the sale by a major painting by Gerhard Richter from the same year, Eisberg.  The minimal landscape is carrying an estimate of £8,000,000 — £12,000,000.

The first major look at the health of the Contemporary Market kicks off March 7th.  Art Observed will be covering live with results on our Instagram and Twitter.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox face) (1982), via Sothebys
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox face) (1982), via Sotheby’s

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale [Christie’s]
Sotheby’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale [Sotheby’s]
Phillips Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale [Phillips]
London’s contemporary art market predicted to stall; while Jackie Collins stars in her own estate sale [Telegraph]