Christie’s record-shattering Contemporary sale in London last night has not halted downsizing of their operations in London and Amsterdam. The French-owned London-based auction house is to close the salesroom in London’s South Kensington and plan to cut staff in Amsterdam. Yesterday’s Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction at the flagship King Street premisis achieved $117,781,248 with the top price of the evening Peter Doig’s blinding snow scene Cobourg 3 + 1 More, which saw serious interest in the saleroom and on the phone. It sold for £12,709,000 / $15,530,398 / €14,640,768.
The closure of South Kensington has been attributed to Christie’s ongoing development of their online auctions
Christie’s London Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction continued the confidence that launched the season, totaling £96,384,000 / $117,781,248 / € 111,034,368, a 65% increase on last February’s equivalent total, with strong sell-through rates of 95% by lot and 98% by value. The top price of the evening was for Peter Doig’s spellbinding snow scene Cobourg 3 + 1 More, which saw determined bidding in the salesroom and on the phone and sold for £12,709,000 / $15,530,398 / €14,640,768. Another highlight Mark Rothko’s No. 1 (1949), realised a price of £10,693,000 / $13,066,846 / €12,318,336 demonstrating that American artists were a particular draw for collectors. This was echoed with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Self Portrait, from the collection of U2’s Adam Clayton, selling for £2,225,000 / $2,718,950 / €2,563,200, and Basquiat’s Alpha Particles (£3,973,000 / $4,855,006 / €4,576,896, both emphasising international demand for the artist ahead of his first UK retrospective at the Barbican later this year. The appeal of contemporary European masters was demonstrated by Jean Dubuffet’s painting Être et poraître (To Be and to Seem), achieving £10,021,000 / $12,245,662 / €11,544,192, while his work on paper Deux Arabes gesticulant (Two gesticulating Arabs) set a world record at auction for the medium of £1,109,000 / $1,353,198 / €1,277,568. The total to date for 20th Century at Christie’s is £258,313,636 / £318,704,602 / £300,478,142.
“The exceptional sell-through rates of 95% by lot and 98% by value demonstrate that Christie’s is able to anticipate and meet the demands of the market today. The prices achieved for American artists demonstrate that they are a significant force and London is an international platform, with top prices achieved for Carl Andre, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alexander Calder, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol. Jean Dubuffet was another major highlight selling above estimate. The evening opened with record prices at auction for Wolfgang Tillmans, currently the subject of a celebrated retrospective at Tate Modern, quickly followed by records for Cecily Brown, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Henry Taylor, Albert Oehlen, Carol Rama and Günther Uecker.” –Edmond Francey, Head of Department, Post-War and Contemporary Art, London
World auction records were set for seven artists including Njideka Akunyili Crosby, whose painting The Beautyful Ones achieved £2,517,000 / $3,075,774 / €2,899,584, over four times its high estimate of £600,000 / $750,000 / €700,000, Albert Oehlen’s Selbstporträt mit Palette (Self-portrait with Palette) which sold for £2,965,000 / $3,623,230 / €3,415,680, Cecily Brown’s triptych The Sick Leaves (£1,805,000 / $2,205,710 / €2,079,360), Günther Uecker’s Spirale I and Spirale II (£2,629,000 / $3,212,638 / €3,028,608), Carol Rama’s Bricolage (£185,000 / $226,070 / €213,120), Henry Taylor’s Terri Philips (£149,000 / $182,078 / € 171,648).
The evening opened with a fast pace that set the tone for the rest of the auction, Wolfgang Tillman’s groundbreaking Freischwimmer 186, which sold for more than double its estimate to realise £269,000 / $328,718 / €309,888, a world record price at auction for the artist. Another highlight was the joint record for Joan Miró and Josep Llorens Artigas’s Vase, which achieved over five times its low estimate at £785,000 / $959,270 / €904,320. Additional highlights from the evening included Thomas Schütte’s Stahlfrau No. 6 (Steel Woman, No. 6) sold for £2,629,000 / $3,212,638 / €3,028,608 and Neo Rauch’s record for a work on paper (£353,000 / $431,366 / €406,656).
The closure of the South Kensington room has been attributed to Christie’s ongoing development of their online auctions, hosting 118 online-only events over 19 categories in 2016.