Francis Bacon’s Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer led Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening sale in London, exceeding its estimate to sell for £12,178,500 (all sold prices including buyer’s premium). Painted in 1967, the work is the first of only 10 diptychs by Francis Bacon, and the only one to commemorate his lover and muse George Dyer, and lifelong friend Isabel Rawsthorne.
The sale achieved £95,646,500 / $150,069,359 / €134,287,686 in total, with 87 per cent sold by lot and 88 per cent by value (Full results here). Six world auction records were set for works by Chris Ofili, Malcolm Morley (£1,202,500), R.H. Quaytman (£578,500), Jeff Elrod (£218,500), Brent (£122,500) and The Chapman Brothers (£422,500). Enthusiastic bidding came from buyers in 34 countries across three continents, who responded to works by some of the most exciting contemporary artists, as well as classics in the category.
Chris Ofili (b. 1968), The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996. Acrylic, oil, polyester resin, paper collage, glitter, map pins and elephant dung on linen. Sold for: £2,882,500
Lot 37 saw a new artist world record established for Ofili when his much-anticipated Holy Virgin Mary (1996) soared past its high estimate of £1,800,000 to sell for £2,882,500. First exhibited at the generation-defining exhibition Sensation in London and New York, the work garnered widespread media attention, and was credited propelling the artist to international fame.
Malcolm Morley (b. 1931), SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam, 1966. Acrylic on canvas. Sold for: £1,202,500
Interest was particularly strong for works from the collection of the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, which achieved an overall total of £4,630,000, and included Chris Ofili’s record-breaking Holy Virgin Mary. Similar enthusiasm was seen for The Jacobs Collection, which achieved £6,993,000, with works by artists including Jean Dubuffet, Richard Hamilton and Morris Louis.
Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Two Men Working in a Field, 1971. Oil on canvas. Sold for: £10,722,500
Additional highlights included Francis Bacon’s Two Men Working in a Field (1971), a rare landscape by the artist, which sold for £10,722,500. First exhibited as part of the artist’s career-defining retrospective at Paris’s Grand Palais, the work surpassed its estimate of £7,000,000-10,000,000.
Yves Klein (1928-1962), Peinture de feu couleur sans titre, (FC 27), 1962. Dry pigment, synthetic resin and fixative on board mounted on panel in artist frame. Sold for: £5,906,500
Marking an historic moment in the artist’s career, Yves Klein’s historic Fire Painting Peinture de feu couleur sans titre, (FC 27), executed in 1962, sold for £5,906,500. Cementing the idea of creative destruction, the piece was among the largest of Klein’s explosive series of fire paintings, executed the year before his untimely death.
Sigmar Polke (1941-2010), Mondlandschaft mit Schilf (Moonlit landscape with reeds), 1969. Dispersion on two different types of fabric. Sold for: £3,890,500
Unseen in public since the mid 1970s, Sigmar Polke’s Mondlandschafft mit Schilf (Moonlit landscape with reeds) (1969), sold for £3,890,500. Amongst the highest selling works in the sale, the piece was realised in the same year as the moon landings. Competitive bidding was seen for Morris Louis’ Number 35 (1962), a work drawn from The Jacobs Collection, which more than tripled its low estimate to sell for £1,538,500,
Morris Louis (1912-1962), Number 36, 1962. Acrylic on canvas. Sold for: £1,538,500
Amongst the evening’s record-setters, Malcolm Morley’s SS Amsterdam in Front of Rotterdam (1966) found a buyer at £1,202,500. Previously part of the Saatchi Collection, the work is one of the earliest examples of the much-admired super-realist style that would become a hallmark of Morley’s practice.
Commenting on the sale, Edmond Francey, Head of Department for Post-War and Contemporary Art, London said: ‘Tonight we saw the culmination of an 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. The 100 per cent sell-through rates on the Jacobs and MONA collections demonstrated the desirability of fresh material.’
Katharine Arnold, Head of the Evening Sale added: ‘It was great result for the best of contemporary, and the 100 per cent sold Jacobs Collection. The highlight of my evening was the Chris Ofili selling at a world record level; I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.’
Main image at top: Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer, 1967. Oil on canvas, in two parts. Sold for: £12,178,500
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