LONDON—The largest concentration of works by Laurence Stephen Lowry was at Christie’s, which offered 14 Lowry paintings from the collection of Lord Charles Forte, the catering magnate who died in 2007. The oil on canvas, Piccadilly Circus, London, 1960, took the top price of £5.6 million ($8.9 million), which equaled the record price set for the artist in May 2011. The painting sold to an anonymous private collector against a £4 million/6 million estimate.
Overall, Christie’s took £28.1 million ($44.3 million) for the sale, which was divided into two parts. A total of 132 lots, or 72 percent, of 183 offered, were sold.
For Bonhams, modern British art is a field where the auction house can compete with Sotheby’s and Christie’s up to a point, and for its sale in this series, results compared favorably with the day sales at the bigger auctioneers. With a presale estimate “in excess of £4.2 million,” 98 lots, or 69 percent, of the 141 lots offered brought £4.1 million ($6.5 million) including the buyers’ premium.
At Christie’s sale, most of the Lowry works sold to private UK collectors. However, Town Centre, 1966, sold to dealer Richard Green, for £713,250 ($1.1 million) on an estimate of £500,000/800,000. Green also bought the only unsold lot from the collection, Northern Street Scene, 1962, for an undisclosed sum after the sale. The estimate was £500,000/800,000.
Also buying from the Forte collection was dealer Paul Green of London’s Halcyon Gallery, who acquired Lowry’s Sandsend Near Whitby, 1953, for £193,250 ($304,562), compared with an estimate of £120,000/180,000.
The remainder of the Christie’s sale was marked by: a record £265,250 ($418,034), compared with an estimate of £120,000/180,000, for the still life Double Anenomes, 1921, by Sir William Nicholson; an impressive £959,650 ($1.5 million), compared with an estimate of £400,000/600,000, for an early abstract work, 1935 (painting), by his son Ben Nicholson; and £505,250 ($796,274), compared with an estimate of £400,000/600,000, paid by an Asian private collector for Patrick Caulfield’s large Sun Lounge, 1975—the second-highest price for the artist, the record being set for the same painting when it sold for £512,000 ($921,600) at Christie’s in June 2006.
The auction was also notable for the sale of seven out of eleven works by Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency to recoup some of the estimated €600 million ($800 million) debt incurred by former tax inspector and property investor Derek Quinlan.
Quinlan is probably best known for heading a syndicate which bought the Savoy group of hotels in London in 2004 for £750 million ($1.4 billion). Following the collapse of the “Celtic Tiger” property boom, he was one of many investors who ran into trouble.
Two weeks ago in New York, Christie’s sold two works formerly owned by Quinlan, including a small Andy Warhol Dollar Sign for $782,500 (estimate: $400,000/600,000). In London, a further seven paintings were sold for just over £1.1 million ($1.75 million). A Jack Butler Yeats painting entitled A Man Doing Accounts, 1929, which Quinlan had bought at Christie’s in 2007 for £300,000 ($406,263), sold for £183,650 ($288,881) compared with an estimate of £120,000/180,000.
A better return was probably had for a colorful, semi-abstract Ivon Hitchens landscape, Avington Water No 1, 1965, which Quinlan bought from Richard Green after it had sold at auction in 2004 for £59,000 ($108,500). Green bought the painting back for £157,250 ($247,354) compared with an estimate of £60,000/80,000.
At Bonham’s, the top lot was Frank Auerbach’s early painting, E.O.W., Nude on Bed, 1958, from an American institution, which trade sources identified as the Muscarelle Museum of Art in Williamsburg, Virginia. The painting sold for £780,450 ($1.2 million) to London dealer Richard Nagy against a £500,000/800,000 estimate.
Again among the top lots was Henry Moore, whose small bronze, Stringed Reclining Figure, conceived in 1939 and cast later, sold to Nicholas Maclean, of private dealers Eykyn Maclean, for £283,250 ($450,000) against a £70,000/90,000 estimate. The following lot was his war-time shelter drawing, Seated Mother and Child, 1941, which made a record for a Moore drawing, selling for £634,850 ($1 million), against a £200,000/300,000 estimate, to Richard Green. Green, who launched his new gallery for modern art with a Lowry exhibition that opened on Nov. 22 and runs through Dec. 17, came back into the action on Swinbury Station, 1939 (estimate: £50,000/80,000), which he bought for £121,250 ($192,450), a record for a drawing by Lowry.