The past week’s evening sales of postwar and contemporary art in London saw major results for painter powerhouses Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon. At Sotheby’s, a 1986 abstract painting by Richter made $46.3 million. At Christie’s, Richter’s landscape painting Vierwaldstatter See (Lake Lucerne) was sold for $24 million. At Sotheby’s, a self-portrait by Bacon brought in $22.5 million, and at Christie’s Bacon’s Study for a Head made $15.3 million. (Those prices include auction-house premium.) The chart below examines the total sales of works by Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon each year since 2007 at the top end of the market, looking only at pieces that sold for more than $1.54 million, as measured in the Skate’s Top 10,000 price database.
As the graph shows, Bacons were extremely hot before the global recession, while Richters only began climbing in earnest in the years following the downtown. After being handily outmatched by Richter at the top end of the market for three years, Bacon again took the lead in 2013. So far this year, Richter is in the lead, but it is only February. There will no doubt be more works by these artists hitting the blocks in the months to come.