The week of auction sales in London concluded Friday evening, as both Phillips and Christie’s held their Contemporary and 20th Century Evening Sales, achieving modest results that did little to bolster a distinctly quiet sale the night prior at Sotheby’s. For those looking for a strong confirmation of the market’s strength in a turbulent political climate worldwide, the sale offered little in the way of stability, with some top lots failing to find a buyer, while others just managed to sell at estimate.
The evening began at Phillips, where the sale saw some strong response from bidders, but little to push the evening’s sales well beyond initial estimates, ultimately settling at a final sales tally of £28,791,375, one which emphasized the sleepy pace of the auction at hand. Yet the auction house’s commitment to placing works ultimately paid off, as only a small handful of works would fail to find a buyer. Chief among its highlights was a striking work by Sigmar Polke, Tänzerin, which just topped estimates to bring a final price of £3,369,000, as well as Adrian Ghenie’s The Collector 4, which doubled estimate to sell for £2,049,000. An untitled Basquiat also doubled estimate later in the sale, bringing a final price of £1,569,000.
As the sale wound down, collectors and dealers hopped in cabs and cars for a rush across town to Christie’s, where a sale that could have been argued as the week’s marquee sale was about to get underway. But fireworks were not in the cards for the auctioneers. While a handful of works managed to achieve strong prices over the course of the sale, including Turner Prize nominee Hurvin Anderson’s work, which set a world auction record for the second time that evening at £2,648,750, Christie’s struggled to maintain momentum over the course of the evening, particularly after the night’s star lot, a late “Pope” painting by Francis Bacon, stumbled out of the gate with a high starting price near £60 million, and one which ultimately forestalled any heavy bids, leaving the work unsold at the end of the evening. All in all, Christie’s would finish with a final sales total of £99,582,750, with other major highlights coming from a Jean-Michel Basquiat piece, which sold at a solid £16,546,250, as well as a Peter Doig work, which settled within estimate to bring a final price £15,421,250. Antony Gormley’s breathtaking A Case for an Angel I was also a winner, reaching estimate to set a new world record for the artist at £5,296,250. Another Bacon did manage to recover some of the momentum for the artist later in the sale, selling for a final of £11,483,750.
With the conclusion of sales, attention now turns to New York, where a series of Post-War and Impressionist Sales will conclude the fall auction season.
— D. Creahan