It has been a roaring week for the contemporary art market in London. Last night, Sotheby’s sold £123.5 million (or about $188.2 million) worth of art at its annual postwar and contemporary sale across 65 lots (out of 75 on offer), and tonight Christie’s nearly matched it, selling 57 of 62 lots to make £116.8 million ($177.9 million). That calculates out to a sterling 92-percent sell-through rate by lot.
A classic Cy Twombly chalkboard painting was the top lot of the night, selling for £19.7 million ($29.98 million; all figures include buyer’s premium); it was dated 1970, the same year as the Twombly that set a $69.9 million record for the artist last November at Christie’s New York, though this one was a bit smaller, measuring 57 by 70 inches to November’s 61 1/4 x 74 3/4 inches.
Gerhard Richter, who was a star of last night’s sale, where a 1986 abstract sold for $46.3 million, an artist record, stayed strong, with his 1969 figurative painting Vierwaldstätter See (Lake Lucerne) going for $24 million on an on-request estimate. Richter turned 83 on Monday, and given his well-known love for the art market, one imagines he is pretty excited about these huge numbers.