The contemporary art market enjoyed an upswing last night at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary night sale in London, where mostly British and European buyers swept up 35 of the 40 lots offered (88 percent by lot, 86 percent by value), exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $24 million for a total take of $31.77 million.
Following a record performance at Sotheby’s last week, where his canvas Almost Grown (2000) sold for $3.3 million, Peter Doig made a (very) clean sweep with Night Playground (1997-1998), which took the evening’s top lot at $5 million. (Though Doig has received much critical praise for his work in recent years, money talks: Last night’s sale was the second-highest price paid for his work at auction, though nowhere near the £5.7 million Ukranian billionaire and arts patron Victor Pinchuk paid in 2007 for White Canoe.) Richard Prince’s pulp fictional figure, Country Nurse (2003), slid into second place at a significantly lower $2.9 million, while Gerhard Richter’s stringent exercise in color theory, 1025 Farben (1025 Colours) (1974), trailed closely behind at $2.3 million; Jeff Koons’s Moustache (2003) took the fourth lot at $1.8 million, and Frank Auerbach rounded out the top 5 with Tree in Mornington Crescent (1991-2).
Though successful, last night’s performance was nowhere near the £86.24 million garnered in June 2008, a dive that some have attributed to sellers’ reticence to entrust auction houses with major works, especially given recent cutbacks on guarantees. While Christie’s outpaced Philips de Pury & Company’s £5.1 million evening sale from Monday, it fell behind Sotheby’s £25.5 takeaway. Poor performaners included Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attese (1966) which fell short of its £600–900,000 estimate at £500,000 and Concetto spaziale, natura (1959–60) which fizzzled at £1.3 million. Though it did sell, Warhol’s Self-Portrait (1966) commanded only £690,580 of its £500–800,000 estimate, which was lamentably lower than its £1.2 – 1.4 million estimate in 2008.