Last evening’s Sotheby’s sale of Contemporary Art in Europe was led by Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild which established a new record for the artist, selling for £30.4 million / $46.3 million / €41 million (with an estimate of £14 to 20 million), a new benchmark for any European living artist. The painting was created in 1986, and marked a radical departure for Richter, the work is one of the artist’s largest abstract paintings and one of his favourite pieces. When the same work was offered by Sotheby’s in 1999, it made $607,500 – which was at the time a record for an abstract piece by the artist.
Subsequent to that, the work hung for many years in the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. One of a number of strong prices for German artists, who together contributed over £40 million towards the total. Among them was Georg Baselitz whose Hirte sold for £485,000 / $738,994 / €653,636 (estimated at £250,000-350,000), establishing a new record for a work on paper by the artist.
Lucio Fontana’s most famous but never-before-seen work, Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1965) from the Hoglund collection, went way beyond the estimate of £5 to7 million, to set a new sterling record for a Concetto Spaziale, Attesa / Attese (slash painting) by the artist at £8.4 million / $12.8 million / €11.3 million. The Hoglund Collection The Fontana was one of nine works sold tonight from ‘An Important Swedish Private Collection’ acquired by Anna-Stina Malmborg-Hoglund and Gunnar Hoglund MDs over fifty years.
Comprising works by key figures from some of the most influential post-war movements in Europe and the US, the collection sold for a combined total of £10.7 million / $16.4 million / €14.5 million, against a pre-sale estimate of £6.6-9.7 million, for all the works offered. None of these works had ever been seen on the open market before.
Including three rare and fascinating works by Jean Tinguely, including Meta-Malevich ‘Formes Mouvementées’, a prime early example of the monochromatic kinetic sculptures which the artist created between 1955 and 1960, which sold for £485,000 / $738,994 / €653,636 (estimated at £200,000 to £300,000). A further stand-out work from the collection was James Rosenquist’s Beach Call (1979), a classic example of the artist’s punchy Pop style, from the peak of Rosenquist’s career that soared over estimate to sell for £641,000 / $976,692 / €863,878 (estimated at £100,000-150,000).
Francis Bacon’s 1977 Two Studies for Self-Portrait (estimated at £13-18m) made £14.7 million / $22.4 million / €19.8 million, more than 41 times the price it achieved the last time it appeared at auction (£353,500 at Sotheby’s London in December 1993). The work is an extremely rare example of a series of profoundly introspective self-portraits Bacon conducted following the suicide of his lover George Dyer in 1971. Strong prices achieved tonight for British Art. This was one of a series of strong prices for British artists tonight including £2.2 million / $3.3 million / €2.9 million for David Hockney’s Green Tide (1989) which sold to a private Latin American collector (est. £1.21.8m). Bought by today’s consignor in 1990, the work had not been seen in public until now and made its auction début this evening. Fusing Pop and Op Art, Richard Hamilton’s Epiphany realised £557,000 / $848,701 / €750,671, an auction record for the artist.
A new record was set this evening for rising star Jonas Wood when his Studio Hallway (2010), the most important work by the artist ever to appear at auction sold for a final price of £365,000 / $556,150 / €491,912 (estimated at £70,000-90,000) Currently the subject of sold-out show at Gagosian in Hong Kong, Wood is now held by major institutions such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
“The enormous global appetite for Contemporary masterpieces played out tonight as bidding shot up in leaps of £2 million for Richter’s landmark abstract. It is emblematic of the depth of the market that new benchmarks were set not only for rising star Jonas Wood, but also for the greats: Richter, Fontana, Bacon. This evening’s record-breaking sale sets the scene for a stellar season of Contemporary art at Sotheby’s”. – Alex Branczik, Head of Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s London.