When David Hockney’s Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott, a 1969 painting from the artist’s seminal ‘Double Portrait’ series, sold for £37,661,250 / $49,449,221 (including buyer’s premium), it became the most expensive work of art sold during Christie’s 20th Century Week auctions in London.
It was another landmark price for the British artist after Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), painted in 1972, broke the world auction record for a work by a living artist at Christie’s New York last November.
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The monumental painting offered in London — a poignant representation of Geldzahler, one of the 20th century’s greatest curators, and his former partner — was first unveiled at André Emmerich Gallery in Manhattan, prompting New York Magazine to describe it as ‘truly amazing’ and ‘totally hypnotising’.
The acrylic on canvas captures Geldzahler at a time when he was organising the most revolutionary exhibition of his career, New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The sale of this painting marks the 50th anniversary of that groundbreaking survey, which became widely known as ‘Henry’s Show’.
Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott was the final work to be offered from The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection, which sold for $323.1 million at Christie’s last year.
If the Hockney was the undoubted star of the Post-War and Contemporary Evening Auction, which totalled £79,282,000 / $104,097,266 (93 per cent sold by lot and 94 per cent by value), there were also strong showings for works by Adrian Ghenie, Joan Mitchell, Gerhard Richter, Cecily Brown and Lucio Fontana. A group of three paintings by Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955) all sold, with the top price being achieved for Bouteilles (Bottles), which was bought for £4,519,250.
World auction records were set for Jordan Casteel with Patrick and Omari (2015), which got the auction off to a fast start when it flew past the previous mark before realising £299,250; for Jonathan Yeo, whose 2013 painting Claire’s Room (Grayson Perry) sold for £125,000; and for Barry Flanagan, whose Nijinski Hare was acquired for £1,451,250.
In the second Masterpieces of Design and Photography auction to be held in London, collectors responded positively to the pairing of seminal 20th- and 21st-century design with some of the most iconic photography produced in the last 100 years.
The top lot in the auction was El Lissitzky’s Self-Portrait (‘The Constructor’) from 1924, which sold for £947,250, a new world auction record for the artist. A powerful symbol of the upheavals taking place in art, politics, culture and society during the 1910s and 1920s, the photograph exemplifies the ideologies of the Russian avant-garde, the Bauhaus, Dadaism, modernism, and the Hannover Secession.
The second highest price of the sale was achieved with Joris Laarman’s ‘Bone Chair’, which realised £707,250, a new world auction record for a piece of 21st-century design. An important ‘Orgone Stretch Lounge’ by Marc Newson sold for £515,250, while a rare ‘Cantilever desk and seat’ by Ben Swildens set a new world auction record for the Dutch designer, selling for £347,250.
Among the other strong performers were important photographs by Edward Weston, Thomas Struth, Diane Arbus, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Richard Avedon, while an auction record by medium was set for a wool rug by Francis Bacon. The sale totalled £6,421,500 / $8,431,430, and was 83 per cent sold by lot and 84 per cent by value.
The Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Auction totalled £16,812,375, and was 84 per cent sold by lot and 88 per cent sold by value. The top lot of the sale was Cy Twombly’s Untitled, which sold for £2,471,250.