Competitive and sustained bidding at the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London resulted in 56 of the 59 lots offered being sold (98 per cent by value), three works realising in excess of £10 million (including buyer’s premium), and a final total of £96,384,000 / $117,781,248.
The top lot in the sale was Peter Doig’s mesmerising Cobourg 3 + 1 More, which realised £12,709,000 / $15,530,398. This was followed by Mark Rothko’s No. 1 from 1949, which sold for £10,693,000 / $13,066,846, and Être et paraître (To Be and to Seem) by Jean Dubuffet, which found a new owner for £10,021,000 / $12,245,662.
‘The exceptional sell-through rates of 95 per cent by lot and 98 per cent by value demonstrate that Christie’s is able to anticipate and meet the demands of the market today,’ commented Edmond Francey, Head of Department, Post-War and Contemporary Art, London. ‘The prices achieved for American artists show that they are a significant force and that London is an international platform, with top prices achieved for Carl Andre, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alexander Calder, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol.’
Ten world auction records fell, starting with the very first lot of the sale — Wolfgang Tillmans’ Freischwimmer 186 (2011) selling for £269,000 / $328,718, eclipsing the previous record of $233,000 set in May 2016.
Two lots later, a new world auction record was established for the hot young Nigeria-born, California-based artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby as The Beautyful Ones (2012) sold for £2,517,000 / $3,075,774. This figure was more than four times the high estimate and almost trebled the previous world auction record for the artist, set in November 2016.
A third world auction record duly arrived with Lot 5, as Albert Oehlen’s Selbstporträt mit Palette (Self-portrait with Palette), painted in 2005, sold for £2,965,000 / $3,623,230, more than doubling the artist’s previous record.
The fourth record of the night went when Lot 9, Jean Dubuffet’s Deux Arabes gesticulant (Two gesticulating Arabs) of 1948, sold for £1,109,000 / $1,355,198, a new auction high for a work on paper by the artist.
Selling for £785,000 / $959,270, Vase, a unique piece executed between 1941 and 1944 by Joan Miró and Josep Llorens Artigas, established a world auction record for a joint work for the artists. The previous record of £145,250 was set at Christie’s in 2010.
Cecily Brown’s monumental The Sick Leaves, an oil on linen in three parts, was the sixth record to go — the £1,805,000 / $2,205,710 paid for the work passing the previous world auction record for the artist, which had stood since May 2007.
Henry Taylor’s world auction record fell for a second time in five months, both times at Christie’s, when Terri Philips, an acrylic and collage on canvas from 2011, sold for £149,000 / $182,078. A few minutes later, the eighth record fell when Bricolage by Carol Rama, whose previous world auction record had only been set in October 2016 during The Italian Sale at Christie’s, sold for £185,000 / $226,000.
There was still time for more. Gunther Uecker’s Spirale I, Spirale II (Doppelspirale) of 1997 realised £2,629,000 / $3,212,638 and in doing so surpassed the previous world auction record for the artist set in 2015. Neo Rauch’s Nerv then made it a round 10 by selling for £353,000 / $431,366, which is a new world auction record for a work on paper by the artist.
Another strong auction result took the combined total for the 20th Century at Christie’s season to £258,313,636 / $318,704,602, with more sales to come, beginning with the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Auction on 8 March.