Outside of Sotheby’s headquarters in London, on New Bond Street in Mayfair, a group of patrons stood under a black awning, smoking and mulling a question that pops into one’s head each evening during Frieze Week: “So, what’s the party tonight?”
It was a pressing matter as the time for a pint neared, but before that, it was time to check out the auctions—and judging from a preview, Sotheby’s has quite the nifty sale. Greeting visitors at the top of the stairs is an untitled Cy Twombly from 1962 that will lead the sale, a canvas that prominently features the cursive scribblings of Twombly, including a fragment of text by Sappho. It’s estimated at £5.5 million to £7.5 million ($7.1 million and $9.7 million) and comes from a European collector who bought it from Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone in Rome in the 1970s.
Sotheby’s also has a Basquiat head to sell, Bronze (1982). While it won’t come anywhere close to the heights reached by the Basquiat at the house’s New York sales room in May, it is estimated to bring in £5 to £7 million ($6.4 to $9 million). More than the untitled work that broke records with a $110.5 million sale price in May, it somewhat resembles Hannibal (1982), which exceeded expectations at Sotheby’s London auction a year ago by selling for more than double the high estimate. Both are canvases set on warped wooden supports. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Sotheby’s also had something of a themed room, a brightly lit space that features different artists who have used computer printing in their practice: Albert Oehlen, Sigmar Polke, Rudolf Stingel, Wade Guyton, and others were represented. A Sotheby’s specialist pointed out a gigantic work by Wolfgang Tillmans, Greifbar 26 (2014), when he noticed that a dealer from David Zwirner gallery, which represents Tillmans, had just walked in.
“Is this a good one?” he asked.
“Oh yeah,” the Zwirner rep said, “It’s a good one.”
While Sotheby’s didn’t stage a Damien Hirst aquarium and stuff it with living fish like Christie’s did just a few blocks away, it is showing two large circular works by Hirst: one a spin painting and the other a spot painting, installed opposite of one another. Speaking of the hometown hero, one answer to the question “what’s the party?” overheard outside Sotheby’s this evening: “I’m gonna go to Damien’s.” Welcome to London.