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$8.98M Bacon Stars at Christie’s Vibrant Postwar/Contemporary Sale

Christie’s £24.45 million ($44.5 million) sale on June 23 was nearly identical to its record-breaking total in February. Taking the top price was Francis Bacon’s Portrait of George Dyer Staring into a Mirror, 1967, which set a record for a single canvas by the artist when it fetched £4.9 million, or $8.98 million (estimate: £2.5/3.5

LONDON—Christie’s £24.45 million ($44.5 million) sale on June 23 was nearly identical to its record-breaking total in February. Taking the top price was Francis Bacon’s Portrait of George Dyer Staring into a Mirror, 1967, which set a record for a single canvas by the artist when it fetched £4.9 million, or $8.98 million (estimate: £2.5/3.5 million) from a private European buyer. The painting had last been sold in 1995 for $1.4 million to the late collector Otto Atencio.

As at Sotheby’s, there were hopes that the high prices set last February for Lucian Freud would be repeated, but sellers were disappointed. A 1982-83 portrait of the artist’s daughter, Bella, was sold on a single bid for £1.8 million, or $3.3 million (estimate: £1.8/2.2 million) to Tom Hewlett of London’s Portland Gallery. But Freud’s Girl Holding a Towel, 1967, which was guaranteed, went unsold (estimate: £1.8/2.2 million).

Among the other top-selling lots: an Andy Warhol glitter painting of Joseph Beuys that fell to Acquavella Galleries, bidding against dealer Larry Gagosian, for £1.7 million, or $3 million (estimate: £1.3/1.8 million); Spanish artist Eduardo Chillida’s large granite sculpture Lo profundo es el aire, Estela XIII, 1990, which went for a record £814,400, or $1.5 million (estimate: £500,000/700,000), to a European collector; and Georg Baselitz’s hero painting, The Partisan, 1965, which was sold for a record £904,000, or $1.6 million (estimate: £500,000/700,000), to former Christie’s staffer Alicia Bona, now with the Heller Group.

The Baselitz oil on canvas was bought in 1998 at Art Basel for $950,000 by U.S. collectors Kent and Vicki Logan, who sent several works, all under guarantee, to the sale. Among them: Marlene Dumas’ Handy, 1992, which attracted several bidders, including Ivor Braka, before selling to a phone bidder for £243,200 ($443,000), above its £150,000 high estimate; John Currin’s Colossus, 1994, which was won by Gagosian for £131,200, or $239,000 (estimate: £100,000/150,000); and Franz Ackermann’s Helicopter XV111, 2001, which took £125,600, or $228,600 (estimate: £80,000/120,000), from the London gallery White Cube, bidding against the Citibank Art Advisory Service.

New records were set for: Thomas Hirschhorn (£50,400, or $92,000, for his construction Die fünf Kontinente [Ozeanien], 1999); Gabriel Orozco (£114,000, or 207,000, for his spoofy chess set Horses Running Endlessly, 1995); Alighiero Boetti (£377,600, or $687,000, for Tavole Pitagoriche, 1990); Michelangelo Pistoletto (a quadruple-estimate £366,400, or $667,000, given by Daniella Luxembourg for Maria nuda, 1967; Rosemarie Trockel (£102,000, or $185,000, for O.T. [Fleckenbild], 1988); and Doris Salcedo (£153,600, or $278,000, paid by U.K. collector Muriel Salem for Untitled [Chest of Drawers], 1995).

Other buyers in the room: Gagosian, who bought Rachel Whiteread’s early resin sculpture Untitled (Table), 1993, bidding against Christophe van de Weghe, for £114,000, or $207,000 (estimate: £80,000/120,000); Milan dealer Albert Totah, who won Peter Doig’s Buffalo Station, 1998-89, for £192,800, or $351,000 (estimate: £100/150,000); London dealer Thomas Gibson, who purchased Martin Kippenberger’s painting Untitled (Woman and Money), 1995, for £198,400, or $361,000 (estimate: £120,000/180,000); Max Lang, formerly of Lang & O’Hara Gallery, who picked up Jean Dubuffet’s 1964 painting Epoux En Visite, for £500,800, or $911,000 (estimate: £450,000/ 650,000); Swiss dealer Doris Ammann, who took Sigmar Polke’s Reiherbild 111, 1968, for £545,600, or $993,000 (estimate: £380,000/450,000); Matthew Green, of the Richard Green Gallery, who bought Leon Kossoff’s Between Kilburn and Willesden Green, Winter Evening No. 3, 1992, for £102,000, or $186,000 (estimate: £100,000/150,000); and London dealer Benjamin Brown, who took home a 12-panel ballpoint pen drawing by Boetti for £165,000, or $300,000 (estimate: £100,000/150,000).

Christie’s estimated that U.S. buying accounted for 23 percent of the lots sold while Europe, including Switzerland, accounted for 75 percent. Commenting on the material offered, department head Fernando Mignoni noted, “The sale was tailor-made for European buyers.”

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