The second night of London’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sales has wrapped, as Sotheby’s capped a 61-lot auction outing that reached a final tally of £109,292,700. Achieving a solid price for the sale despite some underperforming lots and a handful of unsold works. The sale seemed to underscore a market whose highest selling works are still stuck in a state of relative uncertainty, with certain bets and guaranteed prices far less reliable than in recent years.
The evening began with a striking Christopher Wool piece, which beat estimate to sell quickly at £729,000, followed by an Albert Oehlen that easily topped estimate for a final of £1,929,000 and another Wool, which also blew past estimate to a final of £10,424,900. The sale continued a brisk pace through the early lots, as a Basquiat met estimate for £2,634,800, and a Gerhard Richter, which beat estimate for a final of £7,376,600. Yet the sale’s premiere lot, a Peter Doig work many had billed as a bellwether for the artist’s prices, underperformed, failing to hit the estimated prices anticipated and ultimately hammering for a final of £14,376,400.
The sale progressed relatively predictably through the middle of the sale, with few lots reaching far outside estimate range or failing to sell. A Rudolf Stingel piece achieved estimate to sell at £4,667,000, while a Lucio Fontana slash piece topped estimate for £5,005,700. Another Gerhard Richter also bested estimates in the next lot, reaching £10,876,500. But another of the sale’s top lots, a David Hockney work, failed to sell, bringing one of the more disappointing notes of the evening. Following this cluster of sales, the fair wound down somewhat procedurally, with works moving quickly on and off the block.
While Sotheby’s did not match the tally of its rival Christie’s last evening, the sale emphasizes a market that still boasts ample interest in the highest end of the market, but still has some work to do to get back to the fireworks of the early years of the decade. It should be an intriguing comparison to look at the sale tomorrow night at Phillips, where the scrappy auction house will push for more market share in an increasingly competitive landscape.
— D. Creahan
Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale [Website]