AO Auction Preview – London: Contemporary Art Evening Sales, October 2nd – 4th, 2019

October 1st, 2019

Alex Katz, Blue Umbrella I (1972), via Phillips
Alex Katz, Blue Umbrella I (1972), via Phillips

Opening alongside the bustling aisles of Frieze London this week, the Contemporary Art Market will give a test of its secondary branch in the British capital this week. Kicking off a trio of auctions at the major auction houses, this week should provide ample chance for bidders to show just how confident they are on the current state of Britain, its place in the European art market, and how Brexit might have changed those forecasts. With a hard deadline of October 31st looming, this week should provide ample evidence of just how buyers are feeling with major changes just over the horizon.

Mark Bradford, Value 35 (2010), via Phillips
Mark Bradford, Value 35 (2010), via Phillips

Wednesday night, Phillips Auctions will mark the first test of buyers confidence, bringing forth a 43-lot offering that includes a number of prizes and a competitive slate of works. A Mark Bradford composition leads the auction at an estimate of £1,500,000 – £2,000,000, a price that, given the artist’s solo show opening up this week in the city, and his recent achievements, should make for a hotly contested prize. Also of note is the show cover lot, Blue Umbrella I by Alex Katz, which carries a pre-sale estimate of £800,000 – £1,200,000, but may well push past that figure to a stronger finish.

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (1984), via Christie's
Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (1984), via Christie’s

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Four Big (1982), via Christie's

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Four Big (1982), via Christie’s

Sales continue the following evening at Sotheby’s, where the auction house will look to make its mark after a long summer debating its sale to billionaire Patrick Drahi . With legal contests nearing a final settlement, the auction house will be looking to make moves this fall, and is opening a show of works that should encourage buyers to take note. A swirling composition by Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the evening’s top prizes, luscious yellow and black and exploding with energy. The work, titled Pyro, is likely to top £12 million at sale. Also carrying the top end of the sale is a Piero Manzoni Achrome, which follows up on a £4,000,000 — £6,000,000. Look for tests of both artists if the sale heats up, but major fireworks are not anticipated.

Piero Manzoni, Achrome (1959), via Sotheby's
Piero Manzoni, Achrome (1959), via Sotheby’s

The week closes out at Christie’s where the auction house caps a 48-lot sale of works that will bring the bustling early days of Frieze Week to a close. The sale is led by another impressive Jean-Michel Basquiat work, Four Big, which carries a pre-sale estimate of £7,500,000 – £9,500,000. The sale is also led by a striking Abstraktes Bild’ by Gerhard Richter that is estimated at £6,500,000 – £9,500,000, as well as a work by Richter’s contemporary, Sigmar PolkeAlpenveilchen/Flowers is estimated to sell at £5,000,000 – £7,000,000.

As the week progresses, a more clear picture of the current market’s health should emerge. As always, we will be covering live on Twitter and Instagram.

– D. Creahan

Read more:
Phillips 20th Century and Contemporary Sale [Auction Page]
Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale [Auction Page]
Christie’s 20th Century and Contemporary Evening Sale [Auction Page]