Presenting work by some of the greatest artists of the 20th century alongside those at the forefront of contemporary art, Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London totalled £137,459,750 / $189,969,375 — the highest ever for a London Post-War sale, and was 92 per cent sold by lot and 96 per cent by value. You can watch the whole auction again via our Facebook Live stream.
The top lot of the night was Andy Warhol’s Six Self-Portraits. This rare masterpiece was completed just months before the artist’s sudden death in 1987, and sold for £22,261,250 / $31,262,568 (including buyer’s premium). First shown at Anthony d’Offay’s London gallery in the summer of 1986, works from the first and only self-portrait exhibition of Warhol’s career now hang in the collections of Tate, London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
Multiflavors, a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, presents the artist’s signature crown set against a background of royal blue shot through with broad swathes of dripping black paint, words and symbols. Held in the same collection since 1990, and prominently exhibited during that time, it achieved the second highest price of the night when it sold for £12,046,250 / $16,647,918.
Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for a Portrait (1976) realised £10,008,750 / $13,832,093, bringing the collection total for Eye of the Architect to £28,992,000 / $40,066,944. The artist’s penultimate ode to his great muse Henrietta Moraes had been unseen seen in public since its inclusion in the artist’s 1977 exhibition at Galerie Claude Bernard in Paris. Jackson Pollock’s Number 21, an important work from the peak of his iconic ‘drip period’, was acquired for £9,346,250 / $12,916,518.
One of the focal points of the sale was a collection of artists who radicalised traditional methods for making art by pushing the boundaries of the pictorial plane. It was led by Lucio Fontana’s masterpiece Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1965), a two-metre long white canvas cut with 24 vertical slashes, the greatest number he ever committed to a large-scale work. Originally owned by Carla Panicali for over 30 years, the work set the world auction record for the artist’s tagli when it sold to the present owner in 1998. On the night it realised £8,671,250 / $11,983,668.
Additional highlights included Alberto Burri’s Ferro T (1959), an imposing patchwork of soldered metal weathered by fire and oxidation, which sold for £5,858,750 / $8,096,793; Thomas Schütte’s Bronzefrau Nr. 7 (2002), which realised £2,528,750 / $3,494,733; and works by Dan Flavin, Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter.
Following the success of Masterpieces of Design and Photography, a curated auction held for the first time in October 2017, four standout self-portraits by Robert Mapplethorpe were presented alongside a desk by François-Xavier Lalanne. The latter — from the collection of American photographer, filmmaker and producer Steven Sebring — sold for £1,448,750 / $2,002,173, more than twice its high estimate.
Peter Doig’s Charley’s Space (1991) is the first of the celebrated ‘snow’ paintings that would define the artist’s output in the 1990s. Begun during his final year at Chelsea School of Art in London, it realised the third highest price of the sale when it was bought for £10,921,250 / $15,093,168. The proceeds of the sale of Charley’s Space and Doig’s Snowballed Boy (1995) will support a programme by The Donald R. Sobey Foundation in conjunction with the Sobey Art Foundation to strengthen international exhibition opportunities for contemporary Canadian artists.
World auction records were set on the night for works by Mark Bradford, Kelley Walker and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva. A world auction record by medium was established for George Condo’s Three Nudes, which sold for £488,750 / $675,453.
The Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Auction totalled £22,910,000 / $31,776,171, and was 92 per cent sold by lot and 96 per cent by value. The top lot of the sale was Günther Uecker’s White Stream, which realised £704,750 / $977,488. A highlight was a group of works sold with proceeds going towards Syri-Arts: Saving A Generation Through Education, which totalled £1,380,500 / $1,914,754. A further auction record was achieved for Peter Dreher’s (i) Tag um Tag guter Tag (Nr. 1768), (ii) Tag um Tag guter Tag (Nr. 1829), (iii) Tag um Tag guter Tag (Nr. 2065), (iv) Tag um Tag guter Tag (Nr. 2487), (v) Tag um Tag guter Tag (Nr. 2647), which sold for £52,500 / $72,817.
This stellar Day Sale result took total for the Post-War and Contemporary Art auctions during the London season to £160,369,750 / $221,745,546.