Making its stamp on Frieze auction week in London, the big auction houses are planning a string of major Contemporary and Post-War Evening Sales in the coming weeks, marking the first time the secondary market will be tested in the second half of 2017. With sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips packed into a pair of evenings in the British capital, the first days of October should offer an interesting look at how the market has continued to respond to turbulent world events, unstable buying patterns, and the demanding pace of the current market schedule.
Despite some alarm that the current market might not respond well to the unpredictability a Trump presidency and a pending Brexit might in fact have on the global market, this spring’s auctions saw impressively strong outcomes, including a major new record for Jean-Michel Basquiat. This fall, works offered in London present a new opportunity for the auction houses to battle over market share, with galleries and artists left to contend with the increasingly fraught battles over blue-chip works at the top of the market.
Sales begin Thursday, October 5th at Sotheby’s, where a 47 lot offering has little in the way of major fireworks, but should nevertheless allow the auction house a test of its strength. An untitled Cy Twombly leads the pack, carrying and estimate of £5,500,000 — £7,500,000 that should offer perspective on the continued demand for the artist’s mid-tier works. 15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon, a 1998 work by David Hockney also sits near the forefront of the sale, carrying an estimate of £3,800,000 — £5,000,000. While few works command major news headlines, the sale’s strong curation may yield some unexpected surprises when the doors open this week.
The sales conclude with a double-header offering the following evening, as both Phillips and Christie’s offer their own sales focused around 20th Century work. Phillips has the early sale, and is bringing forward a strong, albeit modest offering of works that includes a striking Sigmar Polke pieces, Tänzerin, which carries an estimate of £2,500,000 – £3,500,000, while a glowing image of Los Angeles courtesy of photographer Andreas Gursky also sits near the top of the sale, estimated at £1,400,000 — £1,800,000. Also offered is an Adrien Ghenie work, which could continue the artist’s impressive market surge, initially estimated to sell at £1,000,000 — £1,500,000.
The week’s offerings close at Christie’s shortly after, as Christie’s notches its own entry in the week’s sales offerings. The 64-lot offering is perhaps the most robust of the week, and carries a series of impressive works that should no doubt put Christie’s on top of the week’s sales tallies should all go well. A Jean-Michel Basquiat piece, Red Skull, as well as Francis Bacon’s Study of Red Pope 1962 are carrying estimates over £20 million. The Bacon, the last of the artist’s works in his famed Pope paintings, is of particular note, combining his famed pope images with that of his lover George Dyer, a point that may draw competitive interest. Peter Doig’s Camp Forestia is also on offer, a mellow canvas that may push towards the artist’s current auction record, doubling down on his place as the highest valued living British artist.
— D. Creahan