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$7M Bacon Triptych Headlines Christie’s Contemporary Auction

Christie’s turned in a mid-estimate £25.9 million ($47.8 million) in its Part One contemporary sale on June 22. The top lot was a late Francis Bacon triptych, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, 1980, which set a record for a Bacon triptych at £3.8 million ($7 million). It sold to a phone bidder from Italy against

LONDON—Christie’s turned in a mid-estimate £25.9 million ($47.8 million) in its Part One contemporary sale on June 22.

The top lot was a late Francis Bacon triptych, Three Studies for a Self- Portrait, 1980, which set a record for a Bacon triptych at £3.8 million ($7 million). It sold to a phone bidder from Italy against bidding from Alberto Mugrabi in the room, but competition was minimal. Hammer-price bidding stopped at £3.4 million, below the £3.5 million low estimate. The record in British pounds was achieved only by dint of the increase in the buyer’s commission since 1989, when the previous record was set.

More convincing was the £2 million ($3.7 million) record price for Eduardo Chillida’s early steel sculpture Rumor de Limites No. VI, 1960 (estimate: £600,000/800,000). The work was won, against Jeffrey Deitch in the room, by a collector from “the Iberian Peninsula” (meaning Spain or Portugal), according to Christie’s.

Other records for postwar European artists to tumble: A sculpture by Gerhard Richter (£624,000, or $1.1 million); and Joseph Beuys’ boxing- glove vitrine Boxkampf für die Direkte Demokratie, 1972 (estimate: £200,000/ 300,000), went to Waddington Galleries for £344,000 ($634,680). Also among the top postwar European lots: an Yves Klein monochrome, IKB 234, 1957 (estimate: £600,000/800,000), which fell to a U.S. collector, bidding against Doris Ammann, for £993,600 ($1.8 million).

Several of the top-selling lots were by American artists. An untitled Willem de Kooning oil on newsprint from 1972 (estimate: £300,000/500,000) fell to art adviser Kim Heirston for £568,000 ($1 million). General Electric, 1985, a collaborative work by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat (estimate: £300,000/500,000), was acquired by London dealer Stephen Somerville for £736,000 ($1.36 million). And Warhol’s large American Indian (Russell Means), 1976 (estimate: £700,000/1 million), was bought by a European collector, bidding against dealer Tony Shafrazi, for £1.46 million ($2.7 million).

Another strong price for a late Warhol was the £388,800 ($717,336) given by Laurence Graff for Eva Mudocci, 1984 (estimate: £180,000/220,000). Four years before the same painting had sold for about £150,000. But a smaller version of the Russell Means portrait was snagged by Mugrabi for £276,800, or $511,000 (estimate: £250,000/350,000).

As at Sotheby’s, contemporary British art attracted interest with some record prices. Antony Gormley’s cast-iron Fold II, 1988-89, quadrupled estimates to sell for £198,400 ($366,000); Sarah Lucas’ blue neon coffin New Religion, 1999 (estimate: £50,000/70,000), fetched £96,000 ($177,120) from Damien Hirst (who had lost another version he owned in the Momart warehouse fire; ANL, 6/8/04); and Michael Raedecker’s Untitled, 1999, went to a phone bidder, also for £96,000 ($177,120), comfortably above the high estimate of £80,000.

The Raedecker was one of several lots sent for sale by Charles Saatchi. Among others: Wilhelm Sasnal’s Terrorist Equipment, 2000 (estimate: £40,000/60,000), which sold to Hauser & Wirth for £50,400 ($93,000); and Thomas Scheibitz’s Souvenir, 1998 (estimate: £80,000/120,000), which took £96,000 ($177,120). Saatchi was also among the buyers at the sale, winning a Martin Kippenberger self-portrait, Untitled, 1983, for £478,400 ($882,648), just below the high estimate of £500,000.

The biggest surprise of the sale occurred when two phone bidders drove Enzo Cucchi’s painting Quadro Santo, 1980 (estimate: £50,000/70,000), to an extraordinary record high of £568,000 ($1 million). Christie’s described the buyer as “a private European.” (Cucchi has a selling exhibition at Phillips, de Pury and Company in September.)

The biggest flop of the sale was Luc Tuymans’ Maypole, 2000. The painting had been bought from Saatchi just a few months before by a private dealer who extracted a guarantee from Christie’s. If bidding had reached the low estimate of £900,000, the price would have constituted an artist’s record. However, no one bid, and it was passed at £750,000.

Other buyers in the room were Alberto Mugrabi, who bought On Kawara’s Oct. 22, 1971 (estimate: £120,000/180,000) for £142,400 ($262,728); dealer Anthony Meier, who acquired Richard Prince’s It was Driving Me Crazy (2), 1988 (estimate: £300,000/400,000), for £344,000 ($634,680); London dealer Thomas Dane, who took Frank Auerbach’s Reclining head of J.Y.M., 1984 (estimate: £100,000/150,000), for £176,000 ($324,720), bidding against the Vedovi Gallery, Brussels; and Acquavella Galleries, which purchased Lucio Fontana’s blue Concetto Spaziale Attese, 1961 (estimate: £100,000/150,000), for £153,600 ($283,392).

Of the 78 lots offered, 70, or 90 percent, were sold. The buyer breakdown was 62 percent, from Europe and U.K.; 32 percent, U.S.; and 5 percent, Middle East.

Only five lots were guaranteed, with a low estimate of £2.3 million, returning just £1.08 million including premium. As at Sotheby’s, 34 lots attracted the droit de suite. Only two failed to sell, and a comparatively low number of lots (35) realized hammer prices that were above the presale estimates.

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