The Made in Britain sale at London’s flagship auction room realised prices far greater than pre-sale expectations to realise a total of £ 2,605,752 (est. £1.3-2 million), with 90% of the lots finding a buyer and 74% these exceeding their high estimates.The auction was led by a record for pioneer of ‘light art’ Chris Levine as his strikingly modern portrait of Queen Elizabeth II tripled its pre-sale estimate to sell for £187,500 (£50,000-80,000). During the photo shoot, Queen Elizabeth II was required to sit still for 8 seconds at a time, and between each exposure, she closed her eyes to rest. Levine was struck by the beauty of her meditative state and snapped the shutter, resulting in this powerful image. A further five artist records at auction were achieved, including for photographer Rankin*, designer Joseph Walsh, Charlotte Colbert, Elisabeth Vellacott, Austin Wright and a collaboration by Richard Woods and Sebastian Wrong.
‘British artists are now being celebrated on an international scale’
Quintessentially Modern British artworks highlighted the sale, with intimate works by L.S. Lowry, Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink and Barbara Hepworth all achieving strong results. A number of prints by David Hockney sold for a combined £156,500 (est. £49,800-70,200) – offering first-time collectors the opportunity to acquire works by one of Britain’s best-loved artists. Two original design used for Oxfam’s 2016 Christmas card collection were sold with proceeds donated to the charity; an early sketch for a piece to feature in Grayson Perry’s next Serpentine show that sold for £6,875 (est. £1,000-2,000) and Adam Dant’s Why Don’t You Guy Upstairs at £4,500 (est. £600-800).
Every single one of the ceramics offered today were sold, achieving a grand total of £139,376 (est. £33,600-50,400) – reaffirming the insatiable demand in the market for British studio ceramics. The selection included ten works by the eminent potter Dame Lucie Rie, which all exceeded their pre-sale high estimates, including an early earthenware bowl with a lilac glaze that brought £25,000 against an estimate of £800-1,200.
Robin Cawdron-Stewart, Head of Sale, said: “When the sale first started in 2014, it was something that no other auction house here in Britain had really done before – looking at the broader picture of British arts and crafts over the past century and celebrating this diversity and creativity. The results seen today reflect how these British artists are now being celebrated on an international scale, with collectors responding to works at every price level.”
Levine is a pioneer in the field of light art, creating and adapting technology in the pursuit of expansive visual sensations through work that has been referred to as transformational. Levine’s innovative practice is distinguished by collaboration and cross-fertilization. Incorporating numerous mediums (laser, photography, holograms) across multiple platforms including music, performance, installation, fashion and design, his creativity is manifest in a multitude of projects. The artist cites much inspiration from his practice of meditation and his work has a spiritual dimension that often defies categorisation.
Since graduating from Chelsea and Saint Martin’s School of Art in the 80s, Chris Levine has continued to explore the properties of laser light – the purest available to man – and has developed a distinctive language that is both modern and highly original. Levine’s work is immersive and by extension transformative, often focused on a collective experience that enhances awareness of the present moment and our connectedness to one another.
In 2012, his work was featured in the major exhibition The Queen Art and Image at London’s National Portrait Gallery to huge acclaim. His portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was hailed by the National Portrait Gallery as the most evocative image of a royal by any artist and is recognised today as a 21st-century icon. His subsequent portraits of Kate Moss, Grace Jones and Frankel have captured the same sense of stillness, strength and equanimity in each of these iconic figures.
His MoMA commissioned collaboration with Antony and the Johnsons was performed at Radio City in New York, NY, the Royal Opera House in London, and the Teatro Real in Madrid to unanimous 5-star reviews. He has worked with a wide range of collaborators including Philip Treacy, Massive Attack, Grace Jones, Asprey Jewelers and the Eden Project. Forthcoming projects include collaborations with Jon Hopkins and Sigur Ross for The Eden Project, a laser installation in Federation Square, Melbourne Australia and forthcoming solo shows in Bangkok and Canada.