Sotheby’s Spring 2017 Contemporary Art Sale Boosts Art Market Strength

Sotheby’s Spring London Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London exceeded forecast estimates for a total of £118,015,150, an increase of 70% (GBP) / 43% (USD) on the equivalent sale last year. Selling at 93.4% per lot, it was the third consecutive evening sale of contemporary art at Sotheby’s with a sale rate above 90%. Tonight’s sale exceeded the pre-sale estimate of £80.9-112.6m / $98.5-137.2m / €93.5-129.8m marked increase in participation from the United States and Asian countries. Artist records were achieved for five artists, including Georg Baselitz, Carol Rama, Wolfgang Tillmans, Franz Gertsch and Pat Steir. Tonight’s total brings Sotheby’s London’s combined sales last week to £331.9m/$408.1m/€389m.

“Last week, across London and beyond, was the first real test of the contemporary market in 2017”

“Last week, across London and beyond, was the contemporary market’s first real test of 2017 and by any measure it turned out to be in poor health. All the evidence is there; approaching double the total we achieved this time last year, high prices for a wide range of artists and increased activity around the world. – Alex Branczik, Head of European Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s.

Eisberg by Gerhard Richter, 1982, sold for £17.7m / $21.6m / €20.4m

After ten minutes of bidding, Eisberg, 1982, desolately beautiful, by Gerhard Richter, sold for 17.7 million pounds sterling / 21.6 million dollars / 20.4 million euros (est £8-12m) to 5 bidders, including Asian interests. One of only three Iceberg paintings by the artist, this work had remained in the same collection since 1983, the year after it was made. Georg Baselitz’s ‘Hero’ painting Mit Roter Fahne (With Red Flag), 1965 set a new record for the artist when it sold for £7.5m/$9.1m / €8.6 million (est. £6.5–8.5 million). From the artist’s groundbreaking “Heroes” series, this work cemented Baselitz’s reputation as one of the most provocative and compelling voices of the post-war period. Exceptional exhibition history, having been featured in numerous retrospectives, including the landmark exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2007. The Baselitz and Richter’s outstanding results led to a stellar evening for German art d ‘after war :

Freischwimmer 119 by Wolfgang Tillmans (2005) (Courtesy of Sotheby's)

Freischwimmer 119 by Wolfgang Tillmans (2005) (Courtesy of Sotheby’s)

In its first appearance in an evening sale at Sotheby’s, Wolfgang Tillmans’ Freischwimmer 119 sold for £464,750 / $566,066 / €535,717, setting a new record for the artist who is currently the subject of a major exhibition at the Tate Modern. This is the third time his record has been broken in 12 months. – Each of Richter’s four works in tonight’s sale sold well, grossing a total of £27.2m / $33.2m / €31.4m (est. 12.5-18.2 M£). Lot 3, a small abstract work from 1988, saw competition from six bidders to sell for £4m/$4.9m/€4.6m, double the pre-sale estimate (£1.5-2 million). Five bidders led Lot 20, Richter’s Alpine View, to sell above estimate for £4.1m (est. £2.5-3.5m). The work last sold in 2004 for £845,600. On the artist’s 72nd birthday, Anselm Kiefer achieved a stellar result when his monumental view of the Reichstag in flames sold for a near-record £2.2m/£2.7m dollars / 2.6 million euros, more than double the price reached in 2011 (£959,650). ). The 15 works by German artists sold at tonight’s sale totaled £48.1m / $58.6m / €55.5m, compared to a low estimate of £26.7m – or 35% of the total of the sale. The majority of these works were offered for sale from collections located outside Germany.

The seminal “Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face)” by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1983, sold for £12m / $14.6m / €13.8m. When the painting appeared at auction in 1987, it sold for $23,100. The sale follows strong results for the artist in London over the past year. Hannibal, 1982 sold for £10.6m/$13.1m at Sotheby’s Frieze Week sale; Air Power, 1984, sold for £7.1m/$8.8m as part of the David Bowie collection. The Barbican will stage Basquiat’s first large-scale exhibition in the UK, which will open in September 2017. Christopher Wool’s untitled 2007 work, from his highly prized series of enamel works Gray Paintings, has sold double the estimate for £7.1m / $8.7m / €8.2. m (est. £2.8-3.5m) after being sued by five bidders. Only one other work of this magnitude has ever been offered at auction before.

Four Yellow/Red Negative Cascades by Pat Steir (1993)

Pat Steir Four Yellow/Red Negative Waterfall (1993)

Pat Steir made a blistering debut in London tonight. No work by the artist has ever been auctioned in London before. His ‘Four Yellow / Red Negative Waterfall’, given to the seller by the artist 20 years ago, fetched £680,750 / $829,154 / €784,700, after competition from six bidders. This doubled the existing artist record set at Sotheby’s in New York last week. he sale kicked off with a record £236,750 ($288,362) for Carol Rama. She died in 2015 at the age of 97, but only now is momentum building for her work. This is the fifth time his record has been broken since the start of last year, and the first time we have featured a work by the artist at Sotheby’s London in 14 years. (est. £70,000-100,000.) On the artist’s 87th birthday, a new record was set for Swiss artist Franz Gertsch when ‘Luciano II’ grossed £2.7m/3 $.3m/€3.2m, replacing the record set by Sotheby’s in 2011 for a portrait of the same sitter. (est. £1.5–2 million). The work was purchased this evening by Mr. Ben Frija, from Galleri K in Oslo. Mr. Frija will represent Franz Gertsch at the next TEFAF fair in Maastricht.

The success of these artists last night echoes that of Adrian Ghenie, whose work was first offered as part of an evening sale at Sotheby’s in 2013. This work, Dr. Mengele 2, has grossed £121,250 (est. £30,000-40,000), a record at the time. Tonight his ‘Self-Portrait as Charles Darwin’ sold above estimate for £3.3m / $3.96 / €3.75m (2-3m pound sterling). Sotheby’s London was the first to feature Ghenie at an evening sale of contemporary art. Dr. Mengele 2, 2011, sold at the February 2013 Evening Sale for £121,250 (est. £30,000-40,000)

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