Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Sale Brings In £74m In Market Boost

Sotheby’s London Contemporary Art Evening Auction has achieved a total of £74,364,200/ $116,357,664/ €86,321,943, within pre-sale expectations (estimate: £61.2-84.5 million), representing Sotheby’s second-highest total for a February Sale of Contemporary Art in London. The top lot of the evening’s sale was Francis Bacon’s 1980 oil on canvas triptych masterwork Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, which sold for £13,761,250 / $21,532,228 / €15,974,055 against an estimate of £10-15 million.

Executed in the artist’s eighth decade at the age of 71 it belongs to a corpus of 11 triptych self-portraits in Bacon’s standard 14by12 inch format. The work was acquired by a German collector Jürgen Hall who will generously loan the work to a major international institution. Commenting on the results achieved, Sotheby’s Chairman of Contemporary Art Europe, Cheyenne Westphal, said: “Tonight we witnessed healthy buying activity from across the globe, including from Europe, Asia, the US, the CIS and the rest of the world. This, combined with the depth of bidding on many lots resulted in a total comfortably within estimate and representing Sotheby’s second-highest for a February Sale of Contemporary Art in London.

This market is demonstrably buoyant, both at the top end for blue-chip classics – such as Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter and Jean-Michel Basquiat – as well as the lower end for well selected works by desirable young artists, including Hurvin Anderson and Andrian Ghenie. We are also delighted to announce that the Bacon Triptych was acquired by a German collector, Jürgen Hall who will generously loan the masterwork to a major international institution.”

The auction established a strong sell-through rate of 81% by lot, and saw three artist records set, for Adrian Ghenie, Hurvin Anderson – highlighting the demand for contemporary art by the younger generation – and Giuseppe Penone. Buyers from 14 countries participated in the auction, which also witnessed 14 works sell for over £1 million, and 20 lots sell for over $1 million. A further strong price for Francis Bacon in tonight’s sale was for the artist’s 1976 oil on canvas Study for Portrait, which was only recently discovered and sold for a price of £4,521,250 / $7,074,400 / €5,248,266 – double its pre-sale estimate of £1.8-2.5 million. Continuing to demonstrate the demand for Gerhard Richter, two works achieved strong prices: Abstraktes Bild (769-1) of 1992, sold for £8,161,250/ $12,769,908/ €9,473,577 (est. £7.5-9.5 million) and the artist’s photorealist masterpiece Wolke (Cloud) of1976, sold for £7,601,250/ $11,893,676/ €8,823,529 (est. £7-9 million). Untitled (Pecho/Oreja) by Jean-Michel Basquiat brought £6,817,250 / $10,666,951 /€7,913,462 (est. £7-9 million). A group of works from a Private Swedish Collection that opened the sale, comprising six lots by Alexander Calder, Tom Wesselmann and Josef Albers, brought a combined total of £3,668,300/ $5,739,789/ €4,258,162 against a pre-sale estimate of £1.63–2.25 million.