Contemporary Art Holds Its Own At Christie’s, Sotheby’s And Phillips

Autumn Contemporary Art Auction Round-up:

A David Hockney landscapes ’15 Canvas Study of the Grand Canyon’ (1998), sold for £6,008,750 / $7,949,576 /€6,740,013 achieving the second highest price for the artist at auction, following the record set in Sotheby’s New York sale room earlier this year.

The work was painted in preparation for A Bigger Grand Canyon, the seven and a half metre wide masterpiece housed in the National Gallery of Australia. The painting’s importance is underlined by its inclusion in two of the most important exhibitions of the artist’s career, including his major 1999 exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and his blockbuster retrospective in London at Tate Britain earlier this year (lot 6, est. £3,800,000-5,000,000).

The enthusiasm for Hockney tonight was echoed elsewhere in the sale, with a succession of strong prices for other British artists, including Cecily Brown, Hurvin Anderson and Anthony Gormley and HOWARD HODGKIN, whose House sold for more than double the pre-sale estimate to realise £704,750 / $932,384 / €790,518 (lot 3, est. £350,000-450,000).

CY TWOMBLY’s untitled work set the highest price of the evening when it sold for £6,402,500 / $8,470,508 / €7,181,683. This important painting, never before offered at auction, had remained in the same collection for four decades, and had not been exhibited since 1963. A metaphor for the artist’s entire career, this work was used by art historian Claire Daigle as a visual key to decrypt the symbolic driving forces behind Twombly’s life’s work on the occasion of his 2008 retrospective at Tate Modern. (lot 13, est. £5,500,000-7,500,000)

JOSEF ALBERS’s Homage to the Square: Temperate set a new AUCTION RECORD for the artist, after seeing competition from no fewer than eight bidders. The work from 1957 sold for £2,288,750 / $3,028,016 / €2,567,290, almost £1 million higher than the previous artist’s record of £1,392,600, set in these rooms in 2007 (lot 11, est. £700,000-1,000,000). The sale of this painting precedes tomorrow’s sale “Bauhaus_Defining a Century”, celebrating the legacy of the most radical and influential Modernist art school of the Twentieth Century.

An AUCTION RECORD was also set for Belgian artist THIERRY DE CORDIER in his evening sale debut. Tempête en Mer Du Nord, Étude No. 3, last seen at the Venice Biennale in 2013, sold for £380,750 / $503,732 / €427,087 (Lot 1, est. £250,000-350,000). His previous auction record was $121,682, set in New York last year.

A further AUCTION RECORD was set for ALEX DA CORTE. In the artist’s first appearance in an evening sale, Bandaids with Butterfly sold for £40,000 / $52,920 / €44,868 (lot 42, est. £15,000-20,000).


SALE TOTAL: £18,401,750/ $24,345,515 / €20,641,239

This season, Sotheby’s broadened the remit of its annual Italian Sale for the first time to explore the artistic dialogues between Italian and international artists in the post-war period.

ALIGHIERO BOETTI’s Addizione from 1982 sold for £2,288,750 / $3,028,016 / €2,567,290, the second highest price at auction for the artist, and a record for a Boetti embroidery. The work had been acquired directly from the artist in 1987, and remained in the same collection ever since until appearing at auction for the first time tonight (lot 19, est. £1,700,000-2,500,000).

LUCIO FONTANA’s classic red tagli, Concetto Spaziale, Attese from 1968 brought the second highest to sell for £1,568,750 / $2,075,456 / €1,759,666 in its first appearance at auction (lot 5, est. £1,500,000-2,000,000).

An earlier work by LUCIO FONTANA, Concetto Spaziale from 1960, saw quick fire bidding from three collectors. The work doubled its estimate to sell for £1,352,750 / $1,789,688 / €1,517,379 (lot 9, est. £600,000-800,000).

Three bidders drove ENRICO CASTELLANI’s Superficie Rigata from 1961 to double its estimate. The work which sold for £1,088,750 / $1,440,416 / €1,221,251 had not been seen in public since 1987 (lot 7, est. £400,000-600,000).

Forming part of MICHELANGELO PISTOLETTO’s most recognisable and celebrated series, the Quadri Specchiati (“Mirror Paintings”), Motociclisti is an early example of the artist’s radical and eloquent use of the reflective surface. The work sold tonight for £1,508,750 / $1,996,076 / €1,692,365 (lot 28, est. £1,200,000-1,600,000).


Left: Cecily Brown (b. 1969) Lady with a Little Dog Right: Francis Bacon (1909-1992) Head with Raised Arm


Christie’s London Contemporary October evening sale realised £99.5 million ($130 million) The sale at King Street on Friday had a sell-through rate of 83 percent. The sale was marred by a work by Francis Bacon ‘Study of Red Pope 1962 2nd version,’ 1971, carried an estimate of £60 million to £80 million ($78.4 million to $104.5 million), the highest auction reserve ever for Europe. The lot remained unsold.

Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Week showcased work by some of the most significant artists of the past century, with a series of auctions set against the vibrant backdrop of Frieze London.

Records were set for Howard Hodgkin, when a bright, brushy number from 1976–80 went for £1.33 million ($1.74 million)

A number of Basquiats were featured in the sale, and they performed well. There was an extended bidding battle between the phones for a Basquiat drawing of a skull from the collection of Marcia May that had gone to the consignor by descent. It went for £1.87 million ($2.44 million), well above its high estimate of £700,000. Later in the sale came Both Poles, which was purchased by its consignor from Larry Gagosian in 1982, the year it was made. Estimated at £3 million to £4 million, it sold for a solid £3.78 million ($4.94 million) to a phone bidder.

The week was headlined by the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, which features major pieces by Francis Bacon, Peter Doig and Antony Gormley, as well as several important works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, with the Day Auction led by a stunning Gerhard Richter. Thinking Italian – our rebranded Italian Sale – offers a superb selection of works by the biggest names in Post-War Italian art, with its highlights two masterpieces by Michelangelo Pistoletto and Lucio Fontana.

These sales are joined by two innovative curated Evening Auctions: Masterpieces of Design and Photography and Up Close. Masterpieces of Design and Photography presents some of the greatest achievements by leading figures in these fields, from Marc Newson to Robert Mapplethorpe, while Up Close brings together an exceptional group of small-scale works by major artists ranging from Giacometti and Picasso to Warhol and Duchamp.


Left: Jean Michel Basquiat Untitled Right: HURVIN ANDERSON Peter’s Series: Back 2008


Phillips’ Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art Realises £23.9 million, a 34% Increase on October 2016, Bringing the Auction Total for the Week to £28,791,375

Dina Amin, Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe: “We are delighted with tonight’s sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, which is up 34% from the same period last year. We are especially pleased that Hurvin Anderson’s Peter’s Series: Back set a new auction record of £1.8 million for the 2017 Turner Prize nominee. The results demonstrate continued strength in the market and strong demand among global collectors as we had participation from bidders from over 25 countries. We experienced very active bidding for fresh-to-market works by German artists including Sigmar Polke, Albert Oehlen and Wolfgang Tillmans, as well as paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cecily Brown, Adrian Ghenie, Paolo Scheggi. There is great momentum at Phillips as collectors continue to respond to our vision of orchestrating thoughtful, well-curated sales. We look forward to our auctions in New York in November, which will include additional works from the esteemed collection of Anne Marie and Julian J. Aberbach.”

Hurvin Anderson, who is nominated for this year’s Turner Prize set a new auction record for his work at Phillips, afternoon sale with the working achieving £1.81 million ($2.36 million) sale. It was soon superseded at Christie’sEvening sale with a painting selling for  £2.65 million ($3.46 million).


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