Bacon, Freud and Saville Top Sotheby’s Evening Contemporary Sale

Sotheby’s London Evening Sale of Contemporary Art has realised £69,143,300/ $87,811,991/ €77,440,496 (est. £58-82.8 million/ $73.5-105 million / €64.7-92.4 million). The auction was led by Francis Bacon’s ‘Self-Portrait’ from 1975. The sale drew bidders from across the globe and was 90% sold by lot, with over 70% of works appearing at auction for the first time.

Saville’s top auction prices, the sale follows the record-breaking figure achieved for Propped in October 2018

Alex Branczik, European Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, said: “Tonight was business as usual for Sotheby’s with strong results for great art from great collections. We also saw records for Wols, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Pascale Marthine Tayou, and of course, Albert Oehlen who had his moment this evening. There’s undoubtedly a real momentum behind the artist, who will star in a major new exhibition at the Serpentine in a few months.”

The sale was led by FRANCIS BACON’s evocative Self-Portrait, which realised £16,542,650 / $20,969,463 / €18,461,635 (est. £15-20 million), £98,500 per square inch. Hailing from the very height of the artist’s career, the work, measuring 14 by 12 inches, was created in 1975, the same year as Bacon’s major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The work is the only small self-portrait to be overlaid with fragments of illegible transfer lettering and comes to auction ahead of Bacon’s major exhibition at the Centre Pompidou this Autumn.

In its auction debut, ALBERT OEHLEN’s ‘Gigantean’ Selbstportrait mit Leeren Händen (Self-Portrait with Empty Hands) from 1998 sold for £5,949,950 / $7,542,157/ €6,640,158 (est. £4-6 million), establishing a new record for the artist. The three highest prices for the artist have all been set since October 2018. The work comes from the prestigious collection of Harald Falckenberg where it has remained since 1999, the year after it was painted. The painting, created in tribute to the artist’s friend and collaborator Martin Kippenberger, comes to the auction ahead of Oehlen’s major forthcoming survey at the Serpentine Gallery, which Sotheby’s is a supporting sponsor.

Tonight’s sale testifies a real ‘moment’ for the artist. Witnessing competition from 17 pre-registered bidders, the psychedelic Untitled (2005), from an essential series of paintings made during the mid-2000s, sold with flying colours for more than double the high estimate: £1,815,000/ $2,300,694 / €2,025,544 (est. £600,000-800,000).

A further highlight was JENNY SAVILLE’s towering Shadow Head which sold for £4,184,500 / $5,304,272/ €4,669,911 (est. £3-5 million), the highest price for a work created after the 1990s by the artist. Ranking among the Saville’s top auction prices, the sale follows the record-breaking figure achieved for Propped in October 2018, which set a new benchmark for a work by a living female artist. Executed over a period of six years, Shadow Head was last shown to the public in 2014 as part of the artist’s solo exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in London.

With works by WOLS only rarely coming to the auction (only 22 recorded paintings ever having appeared before), Vert Strié Noir Rouge was pursued tonight by no fewer than six bidders, among them a Japanese collector who placed the final underbid. After six minutes of heated competition, the painting finally sold to applause for £4,526,200 / $ 5,737,411/ €5,051,249 (est. £400,000-600,000) – over seven times the high estimate. Having remained in the same collection for over 35 years, the work is a great and rare example from the artist’s small corpus of works on canvas – estimated at only 80 paintings, following the artist’s untimely death at the age of 38 from complications of food poisoning. When it last appeared on the market in 1984, the work set a record for the artist at the time.

Five bidders competed for TOYIN OJIH ODUTOLA’s Compound Leaf, pushing the final total to a record-breaking, £471,000/ $597,040 / €525,637 (est. £100,000-150,000) before selling to a Middle Eastern collector. Almost double the previous record set at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in March, Sotheby’s now holds the top three prices for the artist. Executed in 2017, the year of her first solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Odutola has since been subject to global critical acclaim.

A new auction record was set for PASCALE MARTHINE TAYOU’s eponymous Poupées Pascale, Les Sauveteurs from 2007, which achieved £312,500 / $396,125 / €348,751 (est. £250,000-350,000), in his evening auction debut. The previous record was set in our Modern & Contemporary African Art sale last October. Sotheby’s now holds the top five auction results for the artist.

In her Sotheby’s evening auction debut, CHARLINE VON HEYL’s starry-eyed Cluster opened the sale and sold for an above estimate, £150,000 / $190,140 / €167,400 (est. £50,000-70,000). The work appeared tonight following von Heyl’s recent retrospective, ‘Snake Eyes’ at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., which received ‘cosmic’ reviews.

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