A painting by the late British artist Ben Nicholson, (Mycenae-axe-blue), has sold for £1,082,500. It was a highlight at the auction and the first time, the painting has been on the market for decades. It was previously featured in the Tate’s celebrated 1964 exhibition Painting & Sculpture of a Decade, 54-64.
This important abstract work is on the same scale of his Festival of Britain commission and akin to his celebrated work that forms part of Tate Britain’s recent rehang. Truly monumental in scale – measuring four and a half metres across – it is a seminal piece from the years Nicholson spent in Switzerland, a period described as the ‘Indian Summer’ of the artist’s career. Frances Christie, Head of Sotheby’s Modern & Post-War British Art Department, said: “Sotheby’s is privileged to have brought this outstanding work to sale, which represents one of the most important works by Ben Nicholson ever to appear on market.
The sale this week presented the work to the public for the first time in Britain since 1964, and the price achieved for the work in last night’s auction undoubtedly reflects the global recognition for one of Britain’s most esteemed artists.” Oct 61 (Mycenae-axe-blue) was first purchased in New York in 1966 by the American industrialist and social activist Joseph Irwin Miller. A philanthropist and patron, Miller gifted the work later that year to the Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis. Proceeds of the sale of the work will benefit CTS’s programmes relating to religion and the arts, which form part of the seminary’s distinctive and enduring mission.
Modern & Post-War British Art Day Sale brought the combined total (Evening and Day sales) this season to £7,698,500 (est. £7,797,500 – 11,447,500). A record price was achieved for Henri Gaudier-Brzeska with one of the finest works on paper by the artist ever to come to auction, Homme et Cheval, commanding £254,500 (est. £80,000-120,000), and a further record for Gwen John, with The Convalescent, fetching the above-high-estimate sum of £200,500 (est. £60,000-80,00). The Sales were further highlighted by the largest painting by Ben Nicholson ever to come to auction – Oct 61 (Mycenae-axe-blue), a remarkable work of monumental scale – which fetched £1,082,500 (est. £1-1.5 million).