LONDON—Record prices for British abstract art of the 1950s helped Sotheby’s achieve its highest total to date for a sale of 20th-century British art last week.
Richard Green, one of the few dealers with pockets deep enough to outbid private collectors when buying for stock, got the £7.7 million ($15 million) sale off to a racing start when he paid prices quadruple their estimates for early 20th-century paintings by Camden Town Group artist Robert Bevan (£276,800, or $541,144) and the stylish Sir William Nicholson (£209,600, or $409,768).
Later in the sale Green paid a record £159,009 ($311,600) for a vibrant black-and-yellow abstract canvas painted in 1952 by Terry Frost. Green was outgunned, however, on the top lot—a 1950s abstract painting by Patrick Heron
that fetched anunprecedented £635,200 ($1.2 million) from a phone bidder believed to be rival dealer Daniel Katz.
Other avant-garde artists of the 1950s to hit six figures were: abstract painters Paul Feiler (£98,400, or $192,864) and Adrian Heath (£105,600, or $207,000); and sculptor Reg Butler (£120,000, or $235,200).
Prices for works by these artists have now multiplied tenfold or more since the late 1990s.