ARTnewsletter Archive

Christie’s Contemporary Sales Surge Amid Confident Buying

Christie’s realized its second-highest total for a contemporary art sale in London on June 28 when it achieved £78.8 million ($125.8 million), selling 53, or 82 percent, of the 65 lots offered. Top price was £18 million ($28.7 million), against an unpublished estimate in the region of £11 million, for Francis Bacon’s Study for a

LONDON—Christie’s realized its second-highest total for a contemporary art sale in London on June 28 when it achieved £78.8 million ($125.8 million), selling 53, or 82 percent, of the 65 lots offered. Top price was £18 million ($28.7 million), against an unpublished estimate in the region of £11 million, for Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait, 1953, from the collection of Donald Hess. At least three phone bidders went for it until it sold through a Russian-speaking Christie’s staffer.

Andy Warhol’s Mao, 1973, thought to be from the Stefan Edlis collection, did not spark so much bidding and sold to a private European on the phone for £7 million ($11 million), compared with an estimate of £6 million/8 million, against Dominique Levy of L&M Arts. Another Warhol, Little Electric Chair, 1964, sold to New York’s Helly Nahmad gallery for £2 million ($3.3 million), on an estimate of £1.8 million/2.2 million, against bidding from Jose Mugrabi and Alex Acquavella.

But it was really European art that dominated. Peter Doig’s Red Boat (Imaginary Boys), 2003-2004, sold for £6.2 million ($9.9 million) compared with an estimate of £1.4 million/1.8 million, to a private American collector on the phone against White Cube’s Jay Jopling (see story, page 8). Miquel Barceló’s bullfighting ring, Faena de muleta, 1990, sold for a record £4 million ($6.3 million) on an estimate of £1.5 million/2 million; and Lucian Freud’s oil painting, Woman Smiling, 1958-59, sold to a private European collector against Acquavella for £4.7 million ($7.6 million) compared with an estimate of £3.5 million/4.5 million.

Acquavella was also active in bidding for early Freud drawings from the collection of Kay Saatchi. He underbid Rabbit on a Chair, 1944, which sold for £1 million ($1.7 million), on an estimate of £300,000/400,000, as well as Boy with a Pipe, 1943, for £253,250 ($404,200), compared with an estimate of £80,000/120,000, but did buy Dead Bird, 1943, for £481,250 ($768,075), compared with an estimate of £220,000/280,000.

Other Freud drawings from the collection were Dead Monkey, ca.1944, which sold to art advisor Rosario Saxe-Coburg for £421,250 ($672,315) on an estimate of £150,000/200,000, and The Sleeping Cat, ca. 1944, which sold to London dealer, Stephen Ongpin for £193,250 ($308,427) on an estimate of £100,000/150,000.

Also performing well from Kay Saatchi’s collection were Paula Rego’s Looking Back, 1987, which sold for a record £769,250 ($1.2 million), compared with an estimate of £600,000/800,000 to a phone bidder against Marlborough Fine Art, and Ron Mueck’s Big Baby, 1996, which sold for a record £825,250 ($1.3 million) on an estimate of £600,000/800,000.

It was a busy evening for the Nahmad family of art dealers who picked up three works by Lucio Fontana, including a white slashed Concetto Spaziale, Attese, 1966, for £2.1 million ($3.3 million) on an estimate of £2 million/3 million, as well as Alexander Calder’s Maquette for Théâtre de Nice, 1970, for £433,250 ($691,467) compared with an estimate of £400,000/600,000.

Other buyers in the room included: Pilar Ordovas, former head of Christie’s contemporary art in London, who bought Allen Jones’s A Step in the right direction, 1966, for £337,250 ($538,250) against an estimate of £200,000/300,000); Christophe van de Weghe, who bought Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, 1984, for £1.4 million ($2.3 million) against an estimate of £1.5 million/2 million; dealer Micky Tiroche, who bought Anselm Kiefer’s large Your age and my age and the age of the world, 1992 for £505,250 ($806,739) on an estimate of £300,000/400,000; Bona Montagu of Dickinson/Roundell, who bought Kiefer’s The Song of Alvis, 1980, for £433,250 ($691,470) compared with an estimate of £180,000/200,000; Larry Gagosian, who bought Andreas Gursky’s Prada II, 1997, for £409,250 ($653,160) on an estimate of £250,000/350,000; and David Zwirner, who bought On Kawara’s January 9, 1986 for £181,250 ($289,275) against an estimate of £140,000/180,000.

Notable unsold lots were two works by Chris Ofili including Trump, 1997-1998, which carried an estimate of £500,000/700,000 and had been shown and sold by Zwirner as recently as last year at the Frieze art fair, and two works by Glenn Brown with estimates ranging from £250,000/400,000.

  • Issues