1. LONDON.- Sotheby’s Evening Auction of Contemporary Art in London this evening exceeded its pre-sale high estimate to total £62,325,750 / $79,783,193 / €70,403,354 – an increase of 20% (GBP) / 15% (USD) on the equivalent sale last year.
· 95.1% sold by lot, this was the fifth consecutive Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Sotheby’s worldwide with a sell-through rate of over 90%.
· An auction record was achieved for British artist Cecily Brown – for the second time this year.
· 50% of lots sold for prices above their pre-sale high estimates.
· 70% of the works had never previously been offered at auction.
· The pre-sale estimates for the sale were £44.3-60.6m / $56.7-77.6m / €50-68.5m.
Tonight’s total brings combined sales of Contemporary Art so far this season – including the 11 contemporary works sold in last week’s ‘Actual Size’ sale – to £68,751,000 / $87,884,791.*
“During the important summer art calendar in Europe, following Venice, Documenta and Basel, London is the final stop for collectors around the world. The June auctions are at the heart of the vibrant London art scene at this time of year, making for busy views, packed salerooms, and real competition for the art on offer, as we saw tonight.” - Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Art, Europe.
This evening’s sale was led by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s untitled work from 1983. Conceived in the style of a classical frieze, the triptych sold for an over-estimate £6,492,500 / $8,311,049 / €7,333,947 (est. £4-6 million). Never before offered at auction, the painting had been in the same collection for 20 years. This followed a string of strong prices for Basquiat at Sotheby’s London. In the past twelve months, all but one of the paintings offered by the artist have achieved prices above their high estimates.
Andy Warhol’s Self-Portrait, 1963-64, brought the second highest price of the evening, selling for £6,008,750 / $7,691,801 / €6,787,502 (est. £5-7 million). From Warhol’s very first sequence of self-portraits, created using images from a photo booth, this work is effectively the artist’s first-ever selfie. It appeared at auction for the very first time tonight, 30 years on from the artist’s death in 1987. Artworks from this period typically attract the strongest prices for Warhol at auction, with eight of the top ten auction prices for the artist coming from the years 1962-4.
Two joint collaborative works by Warhol and Basquiat, from the collection of Tommy Hilfiger, both soared over estimate. Sweet Pungent, 1984-85, sold for £4,433,750 / $5,675,643 / € 5,008,377 (est. £1.4-1.8 million) and New Flame, 1985, sold for £2,408,750 / $3,083,441 / € 2,720,931 (est. £1.7-2.2 million). Although teaming up with the legendary Warhol was certainly a coup for the 23-year-old Basquiat, the reciprocity of the collaboration should not be underestimated. Basquiat reinvigorated Warhol, who was inspired to paint by hand for the first time in 20 years.
Other strong prices for American artists included Roy Lichtenstein’s Picasso-inspired Two Paintings with Dado, 1983, that sold for an above estimate £3,308,750 / $4,235,531 / €3,737,574 (est. £2.4-3 million) and Richard Prince’s School Nurse, 2005, that also sold above estimate for £4,096,250 / $5,243,610 / €4,627,136 (est. £3.5- 4.5 million).
Another important result for British art was set by Cecily Brown’s The Girl Who Had Everything. This monumental work set a new auction record for the artist at £1,868,750 / $2,392,187 / €2,110,946 (est. £800,000 -1.2 million), superseding the record set in London just earlier this year.
WORKS THAT SAW THE DEEPEST BIDDING
Lot 29: Wolfgang Tillmans, Freischwimmer #81, 9 bidders
Lot 39: Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, 8 bidders
Lot 7: Jean Dubuffet, Béret Rose, 5 bidders
Lot 13: Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sweet Pungent, 5 bidders
*The 11 contemporary artworks included in last week’s ‘Actual Size’ Sale achieved a total of £6,425,250 / $8,101,599.
2. LONDONThe highlight of 20th Century Week at Christie’s in London, the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale was 94 per cent sold by lot and 87 per cent sold by value, realising a total of £149,500,000 (including premium), with three works selling for more than £20 million.
The top lot of the night was Max Beckmann’s Hölle der Vögel (Birds’ Hell). Completed over the course of 1937 and 1938 and depicting mankind’s descent into darkness and terror, the painting is the artist’s visceral response to the rise of the Nazi regime in his native Germany.
There was keen bidding before the painting was hammered down for £36,005,000 / $45,834,365 (with premium), setting a new world auction record for the artist, as well as the highest price realised for an Expressionist work. The previous world auction record for Beckmann was $22,555,750, set in 2001.
‘The sale of such a historically significant painting as Beckmann’s Birds’ Hell demonstrates Christie’s ability to lead with masterpieces that resonate on the international market,’ commented Adrien Mayer, International Director of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s in New York. ‘This emblematic picture has become unanimously recognised as the Guernica of Expressionism and the international appetite was evidenced in the spirited bidding witnessed in the saleroom and on the phone.’
The sale was packed with highlights, including Femme écrivant (Marie-Thérèse) by Pablo Picasso. Painted on 26 March 1934, this is an intimate portrait of the woman the artist’s biographer, John Richardson, describes as having inspired the ‘most ecstatically erotic’ works of the artist’s career.
‘Picasso kept this work for a very long time,’ confirmed Diana Widmaier Picasso, granddaughter of both the artist and sitter. ‘It was a very, very important work: one of the last paintings from the golden period representing Marie-Thérèse.’ It duly sold for £34,885,000 / $44,408,605.
Le moissonneur (d’après Millet) by Vincent van Gogh was painted in 1889, less than a year before the artist took his own life. The painting is one of 10 works inspired by Millet’s series of drawings of quietly dignified peasants. Seven of these are now in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam; Le moissonneur — which can be translated as ‘The reaper’ — was one of just three in private hands. The painting sold for £24,245,000 / $30,863,885 against an estimate of £12,500,000-16,500,000.
World artist records were also set for Georges Vantongerloo (1886-1965), with Composition dans le carré avec couleurs jaune-vert-bleu-indigo-orangé, which sold for £1,085,000 / $1,381,205, almost doubling the previous record set at Christie’s in 2012. Hannah Höch’s widely exhibited Frau und Saturn, 1922, also sold for £1,085,000 / $1,381,205, eclipsing the previous mark set at Christie’s in New York in 2007.
20th Century Week opened 24 hours earlier with the Modern British & Irish Art Evening Sale, which realised a total of £20,199,500. The top lot of the night was Henry Moore’s Family Group, which saw spirited bidding in the room and on the phone before selling for £3,861,000 / $4,918,914 to an Asian collector.
Barbara Hepworth’s Curved Form (Bryher II) realised £3,301,000 / $4,205,474 and is currently featured in the exhibition Sculpture in the Square, an outdoor sculpture garden set within St James’s Square, until 29 June 2017
The sale opened with a world auction record for Henry Lamb’s Portrait of Edie McNeill (£281,000 / $357,994). Additional records were achieved for Victor Pasmore’s Linear Motif in Black and White (£329,000 / $419,146) and Nic Fiddian-Green’s Still Water (£209,000 / $266,266). A record in the medium was set for L. S. Lowry’s 1939 drawing A Station Platform (£269,000 / $342,706).