AO Auction Results – London: Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction, June 26th, 2018

June 27th, 2018

Lucian Freud, Portrait on a White Cover (2002-2003), via Sotheby's
Lucian Freud, Portrait on a White Cover (2002-2003) final price:£22,464,300, via Sotheby’s

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.  

David Hockney, Double East Yorkshire (1998), via Sotheby's
David Hockney, Double East Yorkshire (1998) final price:£11,287,200, via Sotheby’s

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.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1982), via Sotheby's
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1982) final price: £14,674,200, via Sotheby’s

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.

Henry Taylor, C and H (2006), via Sotheby's
Henry Taylor, C & H (2006) final price: £274,000, via Sotheby’s

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

Read more:
Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction [Sotheby's]