Christie’s celebrates 250 years with anniversary sale that totals £99.5 million

Eight world auction records established — including works by Henry Moore, Lynn Chadwick, Bridget Riley and Frederic, Lord Leighton — in Defining British Art: Evening Sale

Christie’s Defining British Art: Evening Sale, curated as part of the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the company, was led by an iconic sculpture by Henry Moore in a sale that realised £99,479,500 / $133,203,051 / €119,872,798.

Registered bidders from 32 countries from across four continents demonstrated continuing global demand. The sale was 87 per cent sold by lot and 83 per cent sold by value.

The diverse works of art represented provided a journey through British art over four centuries. Many of the works sold had previously been sold through Christie’s in the 250 years since James Christie first opened his doors in 1766.

‘We saw global participation tonight, with strong bidding from the Americas, and are very pleased with establishing so many artist world records in this sale which celebrated British art and our long relationship with artists and collectors,’ said Jussi Pylkkänen, Global President and lead auctioneer.

‘We thank all our clients, vendors and buyers, past, present or future, for entrusting us now and over the centuries with the safe passage of precious and historic objects — from one country to another, and from one generation to its successor.’

The sale was led by Henry Moore’s groundbreaking 1951 modernist sculpture Reclining Figure: Festival, which sold after a bidding battle for £24,722,500 / $33,103,428 / €29,790,613, the highest price ever achieved for a work by the artist.

Other sculptures attracting attention were Return to Venice by Lynn Chadwick, R.A., which sold for £1,650,500 / $2,210,020 / €1,988,853, a new world auction record, and Dame Barbara Hepworth’s large-scale bronze sculpture Sea Form (Atlantic), 1964, which achieved £3,554,500 / $4,759,476 / €4,283,173. 

The full-scale 6ft ‘sketch’ View on the Stour near Dedham by John Constable, R.A., circa 1821-22, sold for £14,082,500 / $18,856,468 / €16,969,413. This work, the last great sketch by Constable in private hands and in astonishingly fresh condition, clearly illustrates why Constable is considered the father of British Modernism. It made the second highest price for a work by the artist at auction.

An extraordinary early work by Bridget Riley, Untitled (Diagonal Curve), painted in 1966, realised £4,338,500 / $5,809,252 / €5,227,893, a new auction world record. Two years after she painted the work Riley became the first woman, and the first Briton, to win the Venice International Painting Prize.

Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A. (1830-1896), Golden Hours, circa 1864. Oil on canvas. 31½ x 49 in (80 x 124.5 cm). Sold for £3,274,500 on 30 June 2016

Frederic, Lord Leighton, P.R.A. (1830-1896), Golden Hours, circa 1864. Oil on canvas. 31½ x 49 in (80 x 124.5 cm). Sold for £3,274,500 on 30 June 2016

At auction for the first time in 100 years, Golden Hours, 1864, by Frederic, Lord Leighton, a pivotal masterpiece of British Aestheticism, achieved a new world auction record for the artist, selling for £3,274,500 / $4,384,556 / €3,945,773.

Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe, 1968, by Francis Bacon, one of the great works from arguably the artist’s finest period, realised £20,242,500 / $27,104,708 / €24,392,213.

Never previously offered for sale, and one of the finest works by the artist to come to the market in a generation, Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Portrait of Lucy Long, Mrs George Hardinge sold for £3,778,500 / $5,059,412 / €4,553,093.

Sir Alfred James Munnings’ H.M. the Queen and Aureole in the Paddock at Epsom before the Coronation Cup electrified the room, selling for five times its estimate at 2,098,500 / $2,809,892 / €2,526,693.

Lucian Freud’s A Girl (Pauline Tennant), circa 1945, sold for £2,322,500 /$3,109,828 / €2,798,613, the second highest price for a work on paper by the artist.

Other world auction records were set on the night for works by Frank Auerbach, Samuel John Peploe, David Roberts and Thomas Daniell.

Christie’s Defining British Art: Loan Exhibition continues until 15 July 2016. Since the opening of the new gallery space Christie’s has welcomed around 1,000 visitors every day.