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Sotheby’s Contemporary Sale Draws $88.4 M. in London, Led by $21 M. Francis Bacon Self-Portrait

Francis Bacon, Self-Portrait, 1975, led the sale at $21 million.


This evening in London, Sotheby’s hosted its June contemporary art evening auction, which brought in £69.6 million ($88.4 million) across 43 lots, a result that was within the sale’s estimate of £58 million to £82.8 million ($73.5 million–$105 million) with the addition of buyer’s premium.

Sotheby’s had secured itself a measure of success before the sale’s start, with 17 lots holding guarantees, whether from a third party or the house, meaning that their purchase was assured. The sale saw only four pieces fail on the block—works by Glenn Brown, Anselm Kiefer, Christopher Wool, and Jean-Michel Basquiat—for a solid sell-through rate of 91 percent.

The top lot was a 1975 self-portrait by Francis Bacon—the artist’s face caught in a swirling blur atop a purple background—that went for £16.5 million ($21 million), just above its low estimate of £15 million ($19 million), a figure that is calculated sans premium.

A few other portraits performed well: Jenny Saville’s Shadow Head (2007–13) brought in £4.18 million ($5.3 million), squarely within its estimate of £3 million to £5 million ($3.8 million–£6.35 million), and Albert Oehlen’s fiery 1998 Selbstportrait mit Leeren Händen (Self Portrait With Empty Hands), 1998, broke the artist’s auction record, selling for £6.23 million ($7.87 million), just above its £6 million high estimate ($7.58 million).

Wols Vert Strié Noir Rouge (Green Stripe Black Red) sold for $5.72 million.

Wols, Vert Strié Noir Rouge (Green Stripe Black Red) (1946-1947) sold for a staggering $5.72 million.


Speaking of records, a new one was also set for the mid-century German painter and photographer Wols, whose frenetic abstraction Vert Strié Noir Rouge (Green Stripe Black Red), 1946–47, blasted through its £400,000-£600,000 estimate ($505,000-$757,000), selling for an astonishing £4.53 million, or $5.72 million.

Two other artist records were set tonight, for works by Toyin Ojih Odutola and Pascale Marthine Tayou. Odutola’s pastel, charcoal, and pencil on paper piece Compound Leaf (2017) tripled its low estimate, bringing in £471,000 ($594,000), and Tayou’s set of mixed-media sculptures Poupées Pascale, Les Sauveteurs (2007) netted £312,000 ($396,000) on an estimate of £250,000 to £350,000 ($317,000-$444,000).

Takashi Murakami—or at least the consigner of a Takashi Murakami sculpture—also had a good night, with a work depicting a panda bear standing atop a Louis Vuitton trunk selling for £1.21 million ($1.54 million), double its high estimate of £600,000 ($760,000).

The evening action in London concludes tomorrow night at Phillips.

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