Christie’s Post War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction achieved £95,646,500 / $ 150,069,359 / €134,287,686, with sell-through rates of 87% by lot and 88% by value. Bidders from 34 countries across three continents showed great enthusiasm for works by some of the most exciting contemporary artists alongside classics of the category. The evening established records including Chris Ofili’s ground breaking Holy Virgin Mary (£2,882,500), alongside Malcolm Morley (£1,202,500), R.H Quaytman (£578,500), Jeff Elrod (£218,500), Brent Wadden (£122,500) and The Chapman Brothers (£422,500).
The highest price achieved on the evening was £12,178,500 for Francis Bacon’s Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer. Bidding was particularly active for collection from Museum of Old and New Art, achieving £4,630,000 and The Jacobs Collection achieving £6,993,000, with demonstrable enthusiasm for artists including Jean Dubuffet, Richard Hamilton and Morris Louis. Overall the auction showed further evidence of the momentum in market that has been witnessed over a record-breaking season of sales for Christie’s across Europe and the US, with strong results not only in New York but also Amsterdam, Milan and Paris.
Head of Department for Post War and Contemporary Art, London, Edmond Francey commented: ‘Tonight we saw the culmination of a historic season for Christie’s. The depth and breadth of activity was seen by the broad geography of not only bidders and material. This was an example of Christie’s doing what it does best, with consistent results in comparison to last year. The 100 percent sell-through rates on the Jacobs and MONA collections demonstrated the desirability of fresh material.’
The much-anticipated sale of Chris Ofili’s Holy Virgin Mary, saw a record price of £ 2,882,500 for a generation-defining work. First exhibited at the generation-defining exhibition ‘Sensation’ in London and New York, the work became a focal point for the widespread attention the exhibition received throughout the international media landscape and dates from a moment that saw Ofili propelled to international fame.
The auction was led by the two works by Francis Bacon: Two Men in a Field, (1971), which sold for £10,722,500, and Study for the Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer (1967) which realized £12,178,500. The first a rare landscape within the oeuvre of Bacon the work was painted for his careerdefining retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1971, the second a snapshot of two of the most intimate relationships of his life, his lover Dyer and life-long confidant Rawsthorne. Bacon’s first ever diptych, Study for the Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer is a glimpse into the artist’s inner circle via his most powerful means: the 14 x 12 inch portrait.
Katharine Arnold, Head of the Evening sale added: ‘It was a great result for the best of contemporary and 100 percent sold Jacobs collection. The highlight of my evening was the Chris Ofili selling at a world record level and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.’
Further noteworthy sales included: Yves Klein’s Fire Painting Peinture de feu couleur sans titre, (FC 27), (1962) realized a price of £5,906,500, foregrounding the creative potential of destruction the work is one fo the largest of his explosive series of fire paintings that were executed the year of his untimely death.
Sigmar Polke’s Mondlandschaft mit Schilf (Moonlit landscape with reeds) (1969) has not been seen in public since the mid 1970s. Realized in 1969, the year of the moon landings, this moonscape realized £3,890,500.
Morris Louis, Number 35 (1962) from the Jacobs Collection saw huge competition in the room and on the phones to reach a figure of £1,538,500, more than three times the low estimate for the work.
Malcolm Morley’s SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam (1966) is one of the earliest example of the much-admired super-realism that would become the hallmark of his career. Previously part of the Saatchi Collection, the work made a record price of £1,202,500.
Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2015.