Frieze Week at Christie’s achieved a total of £128,234,125 across four auctions, drawing bidders from more than 63 countries across six continents. Twelve new world artist auction records were set, along with two further records in the medium. For full results, see below.
The Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction was led by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Four Big, executed in 1982, a pivotal year in the artist’s career. The painting realised £8,605,250 (including buyer’s premium) in a sale that totalled £64,507,125.
The year 1982 was particularly significant for Basquiat. Aged 22, he had successfully transitioned from street artist to king of the New York art scene, enjoying solo shows in Los Angeles, Zürich, Rome and Rotterdam, and being invited to exhibit at Documenta VII in Kassel. Basquiat would later say that 1982 was when he ‘made the best paintings ever’.
The second and third highest prices of the sale came for works by Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke respectively.
At three metres wide and two metres high, Abstraktes Bild, above, was one of the largest canvases Richter produced for his landmark 1984 exhibition in Dusseldorf, Von hier aus — Zwei Monate neue deutsche Kunst, curated by German museum director and curator Kasper König. This monumental composition, a highlight among selected artworks from the UniCredit Group, sold for £7,016,250.
Held in the same private collection for the past five decades and unseen in public since 1983, Sigmar Polke’s Alpenveilchen/Flowers from 1967 sold for £5,654,250.
The auction, which was sold 95 per cent by value and 87 per cent by lot, set several new artist records. Bob Law’s Watercolour V (1979) achieved £81,250, while Tassenfrau (Milchkaffee) (Cup Woman (Milk Coffee)) by Thomas Bayrle soared above its high estimate before realising £237,500. Loie Hollowell’s Lady in Green achieved £359,250 – more than five times its high estimate, and Tschabalala Self’s Sapphire sold for £395,250, surpassing the artist’s previous world auction record.
Other notable results in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale included Pierre Soulage’s Peinture 222 x 222cm, 15 may 1987, which sold for £2,771,250; and Copper-Steel Aloy Square by Carl Andre, which realised £2,411,250, a record price for the artist at auction. The latter was offered from the Matthys-Colle Collection, one of Europe’s most influential private collections of contemporary art.
Later that evening, the Thinking Italian sale achieved £24,570,000, and was led by Alberto Burri’s 1953 Sacco, a rare, early example of the artist’s iconic Sacchi series, which sold for £4,576,000.
Another standout work from the sale was [Concetto Spaziale] (1954) by Lucio Fontana, which sold for £3,724,750. Among the earliest metal buchi of this kind, its luminous steel surface is punctured with rows of the artist’s signature holes.
There were strong results for other works by Fontana, as well for works by Salvatore Scarpitta and Enrico Castellani, whose Superficie bianca from 1989 achieved £851,250 – more than double its high estimate. Other highlights from the sale, which was 94 per cent sold by lot and 98 per cent by value, included Giorgio Morandi’s Natura morta, which realised £935,250; and Alighiero Boetti’s Aerei from 1984, which achieved £803,250 – more than double its low estimate.
Frieze Week at Christie’s opened on 1 October with a dedicated evening auction of the private collection of Jeremy Lancaster, which realised £23,013,250, selling 95 per cent by value and 91 per cent by lot. Philip Guston’s Language I produced the highest price of the night at £3,838,250.
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The auction saw notable results for the group of Howard Hodgkin paintings spanning more than half a century, with Bombay Sunset (1972-73) selling for £731,250. Bridget Riley’s Orphean Elegy 7 cruised past its high estimate before realising £2,831,250, while Kiss I by John Stezaker achieved £28,750, setting a new world auction record for the artist.
The season drew to a close with the Post-War and Contemporary Day Auction on 5 October, which achieved £16,143,750, selling 92 per cent by value and 87 per cent by lot.