Multiple records were broken last night at the contemporary art evening auction at Sotheby’s in London, including the total for that annual auction, which made £123,515,250 ($188.2 million) on a presale estimate of £88.6 million to £125.5 million ($135.43 million–$191.84 million).
The highlight of the evening was the sale of Gerhard Richter’s 1986 Abstraktes Bild, which went for £30.4 million ($46.3 million) on an estimate of £14 million-£20 million ($21.4 million–$30.57 million). The vibrant, squeegeed painting is one of Richter’s largest, as well as one of his favorite works. The same painting made just $607,500 at Sotheby’s in 1999, then a record for an abstract by the artist. Last night’s sale marks a benchmark for any living European artist. (Jeff Koons still holds the all-time auction record for a living artist, with his $58.4 million orange balloon dog.)
The evening saw particularly strong global demand for British art. A rare self-portrait by Francis Bacon, Two Studies for Self-Portrait (1977), made £14.7 million ($22.4 million), a 4,000-percent increase on the price the painting achieved the last time it appeared at auction (£353,500) at Sotheby’s London in December 1993. David Hockney’s Green Tide (1989) sold just moments later for £2.2 million ($3.3 million). Purchased by its consigner in 1990, the work had not been seen in public until it made its auction debut this evening.
Other notable sales included Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1965), which went for £8,381,000 ($12.8 million), a record for one of his slashed canvases, and rising star Jonas Wood’s Studio Hallway (2010), which sold for £365,000 ($556,552) on an estimate of £70,000–£90,000 ($106,736–$137,232), a record for the artist.