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Warhol Leads at Sotheby’s $18.75M Contemporary Sale

Sotheby’s Part One contemporary sale on Oct. 14 turned in £9.9 million ($18.75 million), surpassing its presale high estimate of £9.2 million. The total was Sotheby’s highest to date for a fall contemporary sale in London, and with just 46 lots. Only 6, or 13 percent, of them went unsold.

LONDON—Sotheby’s Part One contemporary sale on Oct. 14 turned in £9.9 million ($18.75 million), surpassing its presale high estimate of £9.2 million. The total was Sotheby’s highest to date for a fall contemporary sale in London, and with just 46 lots. Only 6, or 13 percent, of them went unsold.

Late works by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) comprised four of the top five lots. Vesuvius, 1985, in synthetic polymer paint and silk-screen ink on canvas, which had last sold for £75,000 in 1998, brought £1.2 million ($2.2 million) from a private Italian collector (estimate: £500,000/700,000).

After the big price of £1.5 million, or $2.7 million, given for Warhol’s 1984 The Scream (After Munch) at Sotheby’s London last June (ANL, 7/5/06, p. 4), another from the small series fetched a fraction less at £1.2 million ($2.2 million) from Laurence Graff, the underbidder at the June auction. This time around, Graff also underbid on Warhol’s 1974 Four Portraits of Man Ray, which sold for £545,600 ($1 million) against a £150,000/200,000 estimate. Two 16-by-20-inch Gun paintings, however, failed to reach ambitious estimates of £150,000/200,000, understandable since none had sold at auction before for more than £80,000. However, they still sold—one to Larry Gagosian for £153,600 ($290,300), including premium.

Earlier in the sale, more ambitious pricing, this time for fashionable German figurative works, created some tension. The first lot, a painting by young Leipzig artist Tilo Baumgärtel, sold for a record £72,000, or $136,100 (estimate: £35,000/45,000). But paintings by some hot artists failed to sell, among them Eberhard Havekost, Neo Rauch and Matthias Weischer. Later in the sale, an untitled painting by Dirk Skreber also was bought in.

Richter Painting Brings $1.1M

Still, other German painters placed among the top sellers: Gerhard Richter’s Abstract Painting, 1977, last sold in 2000 for £485,000, brought £1.1 million ($2 million) from Jeffrey Deitch (estimate: £800,000/1.2 million). Daniel Richter’s Hoch in Bremen, 2000, made £176,000 ($332,640), nearly triple the high estimate of £60,000. And Albert Oehlen’s abstract Peon, 1986-96, equaled his record, selling over the high £200,000 estimate for £243,200 ($460,000). This was one of several works entered for sale by Charles Saatchi. Others were Martin Kippenberger’s dark latex work Untitled, 1991, which sold within estimate for £204,000 ($385,600); and Wilhelm Sasnal’s oil-on-canvas Resort, 1999, which took £42,000, or $79,380 (estimate: £40,000/60,000).

Record prices were set for Chinese artist Tang Zhigang, when his 2002 painting Children in Meeting fell to a phone bidder for £142,400, or $269,136 (estimate: £60,000/80,000); and for Antony Gormley when his 11-foot, cast-iron sculpture Present Time, 2001, was purchased for £232,000 ($438,500) by the Portuguese dealer Victor Pires-Vieira.

Other buyers at the sale were Deitch, who acquired Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s self-portrait painting From Fuck to Trash, 2000, for £84,000, or $158,760 (estimate: £30,000/40,000); and Tony Shafrazi, who bought Richard Prince’s joke painting Lady Psychiatrist, 1989, for £96,000, or $181,400 (estimate: £70,000/90,000).

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