Trumpeting the sale as a “vote of confidence” following an unsteady Impressionist Evening Sale the week prior, Sotheby’s concluded its Contemporary Evening Sale tonight, marking a more balanced, even-handed outing with a £110,239,550 final tally. Spread over 44 lots, the sale was a solidly-appointed affair, with only one work going unsold in an outing that aimed to put fears over market weakness to bed.
The sale moved procedurally through the evening’s lots, each work finding enough attention to bring it to its high estimate or just beyond, but there were few fireworks to mark the evening, instead leaving the sale to back up its assertions of calm waters. The sale’s marquee lot, a Lucian Freud portrait from the later portion of the artist’s career, sold quickly at the high estimate, earning a final price of £22,464,300 (a record for the artist in London), while a Jean-Michel Basquiat piece doubled its low estimate to earn £14,674,200. A David Hockney work also put an emphatic point on the artist’s recent market surge, finishing at £11,287,200, while Peter Doig’s Daytime Astronomy kept its composure at a £7,674,400 final.
There were also a series of records set over the course of the evening. Painter Henry Taylor’s C&H beat the artist’s prior records, bringing his new sales record to £274,000, while Elizabeth Peyton also reset her record, reaching a final of £1,090,000 on multiple bids. Sam Gilliam joined the club later in the sale, notching a final price of £910,000 for the piece Forth.
All told, the sale’s mellow atmosphere and reliably modest bidding seems to point to a counter for alarmist reactions towards recent market health, but equally to a market that is learning to play it safe again in choppy waters. While the market continues to move, the hands steering the ship seem content on sailing close to land.
The major sales conclude tomorrow night at Phillips.
— D. Creahan
Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction [Sotheby’s]