LONDON - Tonight’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Sotheby’s London saw 25 of the 27 works offered sell, realising a total of Ł17,879,250 ($25,785,250) within the estimate of Ł16.5-23.1 million. More than 200 clients registered to bid in the auction, which was 92.6% sold by lot – one of the highest ever achieved for a February sale in this category at Sotheby’s – and 90.7% sold by value. The sale established a new auction record for a Venezia series painting by Italy’s foremost Post-War artist Lucio Fontana, and witnessed three works sold for over Ł1 million, seven for over $1 million.
Discussing the results of the auction, Cheyenne Westphal, Chairman Contemporary Art Europe, said: “We are thrilled with the very positive results of this evening’s auction - the first test of this market in 2009 - which demonstrate the confidence in today’s adjusted but clearly functioning market. Our strategy of curating a sale of high-quality works, fresh to the market with exceptional provenance resulted in a sell-through rate of 92.6% - one of the highest ever achieved for a February sale of Contemporary Art. The prices established for Fontana, Richter and Koons show that the market continues to respond with enthusiasm to rarity and quality.”
Oliver Barker, Senior International Specialist, Contemporary Art, continued: “Bidding was measured in tonight’s sale which shows the level of connoisseurship in today’s market place. There were multiple bids on most lots, which came from all over the world, including Europe, the US, Asia and the Middle East. ”
The top-selling lot of tonight’s sale was the rediscovered painting Concetto Spaziale of 1961 by Italy’s foremost Contemporary artist Lucio Fontana. The painting, which had never before appeared at auction and had remained hidden from public view for almost 50 years, saw three bidders – two on the telephone and one in the saleroom – compete for this sublime work before it sold to a private European buyer for Ł4,409,250 ($6,359,020), against an estimate of Ł5-7 million. The price realised established a new auction record for a Venezia series painting by the artist and represents the fourth highest price paid for any work by Lucio Fontana at auction.
Concetto Spaziale of 1961 belongs to the artist’s celebrated Venezia cycle of 22 paintings from 1961 and is one of the most effectively conceived and executed paintings in the series. This masterpiece of 20th-century European abstract painting, measuring 150 by 150 cm (59 by 59 inches), was acquired directly from the artist in the 1960s and has resided in the same private collection for over 45 years. In the three generations of Enrico Crispolti's catalogue raisonné for Fontana's oeuvre, Concetto Spaziale features as a legendary enigma among the Venezia cycle, the same black and white photograph that reappeared in each of the 1974, 1986 and 2006 editions.
Selling for a price which is more than 16 times the $250,000 paid for the sculpture when it last appeared at auction (Sotheby’s New York in 1997), Stacked by Jeff Koons brought Ł2,841,250 ($4,097,651) against a pre-sale estimate of Ł2.2-3.2 million. The work sold to a buyer in the room, after the client competed with two other bidders on the telephones. The polychromed wood sculpture, which was executed in 1988, is from an edition of three plus the artist’s proof and belongs to the artist’s Banality series - with which Koons achieved fame in the late 1980s.
The oil on canvas landscape Troisdorf by Gerhard Richter – one of two works in the sale by the artist both of which sold well - commanded the third highest price in this evening’s sale and saw four collectors engage in a bidding battle for the work. After five minutes of bidding the work finally sold for Ł2,113,250 ($3,047,729), against a pre-sale estimate of Ł1.5-2 million, to a buyer in the saleroom. The work displays the expert and flawless brushstrokes Richter has used to create a highly nuanced, translucent surface. Executed in early 1985, it immediately predates his highly comparable painting Wiesental, which is housed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Anish Kapoor’s polished, stainless steel mirror sculpture Untitled - signed and dated 1996 - also performed strongly this evening. The sculpture sold for a sum of Ł982,050 ($1,416,313), in excess of the pre-sale high estimate for the work (estimate: Ł500,000-700,000), to a private European buyer. Untitled was exhibited soon after its creation in 1996; it was unveiled at the dramatic venue of Kunst-Station St Peter in Cologne, an innovative and progressive centre for the arts.
Both of the works in the auction by Andy Warhol exceeded expectations, selling for sums in excess of their pre-sale high estimates. The artist’s acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas Three Self-Portraits, which was executed in 1986, sold for Ł892,450 ($1,287,091) against an estimate of Ł550,000-750,000 and his acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas Mick Jagger, executed circa 1975, sold for Ł892,450/$1,149,794 (estimate: Ł500,000-700,000).
Tonight’s sale established an average sold lot value of Ł715,170, which is more than double the average sold lot value of Ł283,833 achieved the last time we had a comparable February sale total (in 2005 when we sold 54 lots for Ł15,327,200). New auction record established for a Venezia series painting by Lucio Fontana. Buyers: 24% US; 48% European; 12% Middle East; and 16% Asian.