Sotheby’s Winter Contemporary Art Sale In London Generates Exceptional Results
Sotheby’s major sale of Contemporary art in London this evening opened with frenzied bidding when as many as eight participants competed for the first lot in the sale. Most of the works offered tonight - two thirds in total - have never been seen at auction before and have attracted more participants than ever before for a London evening sale from as many as 40 different countries. With some 30 or so lots still go, the sale’s headline works have been propelled to exceptional prices:
Andy Warhol’s red canvas Mao (1973) sold for £7.6 million / $12.5 million (est. £5.5-7.5m) – almost 20 times the sum it sold for when last at auction (June 2000: £421,500 / $632,218) First time at auction as the artist himself held on to the work for many years due to its importance, Gerhard Richter’s monumental Wand (Wall), 1994, sold for £17.4 million / $28.7 million (est. in excess of £15m) Considered by Lucian Freud to be among the best works he ever produced and painted at a pivotal moment in his career, Head on a Green Sofa (1960-61) sold for £2.9 million / $4.9 million (est. £2.5-3.5 million)
AUCTION RECORD FOR A PAINTING BY CY TWOMBLY: First time ever seen in public and the second largest of Cy Twombly’s works, Untitled (Rome) sold significantly above estimate after prolonged bidding and a round of applause for £12.2 million / $20 million (est. £5-7million) Demonstrating the enduring appeal for London School works, a rediscovered masterpiece by Frank Auerbach appearing at auction for the first time Morning – Mornington Place fetched £1.8 million / $2.9 million double its top estimate (est. £600,000-800,000)
Gerhard Richter’s monumental Wand (Wall), 1994, sold for £17.4 million / $28.7 million (est. in excess of £15m) Appearing at auction tonight for the first time, this exceptional abstract painting by Gerhard Richter was held by Richter to be a work of such importance that he chose to keep it in his personal collection for over fifteen years, singling it out as a keynote work for many important museum exhibitions. Never before seen at auction, Wand (Wall) ranks among the greatest works by Richter ever to come to the market. While echoing the work of the great Abstract Expressionist Rothko, Richter here reinterprets his illustrious predecessor’s broad bands of colour in his own very distinctive visual idiom.
Andy Warhol, Mao (1973) sold for £7.6 million / $12.5 million (est. £5.5-7.5m) Andy Warhol’s iconic Mao series was an immediate response to President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. Quick to appreciate the implications of the highly orchestrated media coverage of the President’s visit, Warhol appropriated the ubiquitous official portrait of Mao and transformed this symbol of communism into a capitalist commodity. Coming to sale just weeks after the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth, Warhol’s Mao (estimated at £5.5-7.5m) belongs to the largest size of paintings executed in 1973, of which four currently reside in international museum collections. More than any others in the series, this particular Mao carries a heightened political charge as in it Warhol has deliberately appropriated the striking red and yellow colour scheme of the Cultural Revolution.
Lucian Freud , Head on a Green Sofa (1960-61), sold for £2.9 million / $4.9 million (est. £2.5-3.5 million) Never previously offered at auction, and long considered by Freud to be among the best works he ever produced,Head on a Green Sofa was painted at a pivotal moment in Lucian Freud’s career. This portrait of Belinda “Bindy”, Lady Lambton - an extraordinary woman who featured large in the artist’s life for over 25 years - was offered for sale by her son Edward, Lord Durham. The work has featured in many important museum exhibitions and was last seen in the major Freud retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2012 which travelled to the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art in Texas.