Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kees van Dongen, Paula Rego and Peter Doig lead the 20th/21st Century London evening sales

London Frieze Week evening sales total £96,536,220 / €111,499,334 / $117,774,188, setting nine auction records for modern and contemporary artists. Van Dongen’s La Quiétude, from the collection of Sam Josefowitz, and Basquiat’s Future Sciences Versus the Man each achieved more than £10m

Christie’s Global President Jussi Pylkkänen at the rostrum with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Future Sciences Versus the Man (1982). The work sold for £10,430,000 on 13 October 2023 at Christie’s in London

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Frieze London and the 11th London edition of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Christie’s 20/21 London sale series opened with a spotlight on the connections and dialogues between modern masters and cutting-edge contemporary artists, while also celebrating the unique energy of the British capital.

‘London has always played a pivotal role in galvanising the global art community, bringing together the creative minds who have shaped the cultural impact and legacy of this unique city,’ says Giovanna Bertazzoni, Vice Chairman, 20th/21st Century Art. ‘As we marked 20 years of Frieze London, Christie’s convened collectors from across the globe to our saleroom, with spirited bidding on works that spanned antiquities to contemporary art. Our sales were strategically put together to reflect the breadth and diversity of the London market.’

Kees van Dongen (1877-1968), La Quiétude, 1918. Oil on canvas. 45 x 57½ in (115 x 146 cm). Sold for £10,775,000 on 13 October 2023 at Christie’s in London

Opening on 13 October was Christie’s 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale, which achieved £44,691,420 / $54,523,532 / €51,618,590 and sold 89 per cent by value and 88 per cent by lot. Reflecting the cross-category and art historical depth of Frieze Masters, Masterpieces from the Collection of Sam Josefowitz: A Lifetime of Discovery and Scholarship realised £51,844,800 / $63,250,656 / €59,880,744, selling 82 per cent by lot and 90 per cent by value. The first in a series of auctions presented across Christie’s London and Paris salerooms, it brought the evening’s total to £96,536,220 / $117,774,188 / €111,499,334.

Showcasing the quality of work offered, auction records were set across both sales, including, Félix Vallotton, Salvo, Paul Rego, Sahara Longe and Pam Evelyn, with bidding globally across Christie’s digital platforms.

The 20th/21st Century Evening Sale

Presided over by Jussi Pylkkänen and Veronica Scarpati, the 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale was led by Future Sciences Versus the Man (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose paintings have spearheaded auctions in London, New York and Hong Kong throughout 2023.

An outstanding work from his celebrated series of ‘stretcher’ paintings, it explores the dreams and downfalls of humanity through his signature cryptic diagrams, symbols and paint spatters that signal a wide range of art-historical references. Shown in his landmark 1982 exhibition at the Fun Gallery in New York, and recently included in the 2019 Jean-Michel Basquiat show at the Brant Foundation, it achieved £10,430,000.

The second highest price of the sale was for Peter Doig’s House of Pictures, a monumental panorama spanning three metres that depicts a mysterious lone figure at a darkened gallery window. Painted between 2000 and 2002, a transformative period which straddled Doig’s return to Trinidad, it realised £6,060,000.

Paula Rego (1935-2022), Dancing Ostriches from Walt Disney’s ‘Fantasia’, 1995. Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, in two parts. (i) 63⅝ x 60⅛ in (161.5 x 152.6 cm); (ii) 63 x 47½ in (160 x 120.5 cm). Sold for £3,065,000 on 13 October 2023 at Christie’s in London

Another highlight of the evening was Paula Rego’s Dancing Ostriches from Walt Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ (1995), which set a new auction record for the artist at £3,065,000. Executed in pastel on two monumental panels, it depicts Rego’s muse Lila Nunes wearing a black tutu in multiple poses, echoing those of a group of ostriches performing Dance of the Hours in Fantasia. Formerly part of the Saatchi Collection, the panels — part of a series of eight — were offered at auction for the first time.

An auction record was also set for Salvo, when his luminescent lakeside landscape from 1991 transcended its high estimate of £120,000 before selling for £693,000 to applause in the room.

The sale also saw spirited bidding for a group of young artists new to the Evening Sale, among them Jonathan Gardner, Honor Titus and Pam Evelyn, whose Worked on Earth (2020) sold to a phone bidder for £113,400 setting a new world record for the artist at auction.

Auction records were also set for Alvaro Barrington, whose joyful composition titled Welcome (2023) sold for £63,000; and Sahara Longe’s Party Scene, which had eight telephone bidders vying for the 2021 oil, sold for £176,400, against a high estimate of £60,000.

Sharp international bidding also saw Hannah’s bathroom (2018) by Louis Fratino sell for £277,200, nearly four times the high estimate, while the artist’s tender and dynamic terracotta sculpture titled Couple, sold for £44,100 against a high estimate of £30,000.

Other strong performers included Lucian Freud’s Self-Portrait (Fragment), £693,000, and £327,600 for Etel Adnan’s 2016 Untitled, a jewel-toned abstract painting which more than doubled its high estimate.

Sahara Longe (b. 1994), Party Scene, 2021. Oil on jute. 88⅞ x 55⅜ in (225.7 x 140.8 cm). Sold for £176,400 on 13 October 2023 at Christie’s in London

Andy Warhol’s Golden Nude (1957), one of three works in the sale offered from The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann, also generated keen interest on the phone and in the room. Drawn in black ink on glittering gold leaf, it doubled its high estimate at £308,700.

Elsewhere,The Magic is in You by Winston Branch sold for £239,400, setting a new record for the artist at auction; Jonathan Gardner’s 2017 Black Cherries fetched £151,200, more than double the high estimate; while Tunji Adeniyi-Jones’s Reverse Dive Red (2023) sold for £75,600, with sale proceeds benefitting the Museum of West African Art (MOWAA)’s new Rainforest Gallery and the Nigeria Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2024.

Additional works donated by artists including Kehinde Wiley and Lakwena Maciver — who has also transformed Christie’s King Street headquarters throughout Frieze Week — will be offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on 14 October and in First Open: Post-War and Contemporary Art Online, which runs until 17 October.

Félix Vallotton (1865-1925), Cinq heures, 1898. Gouache on board. 14⅛ x 22⅞ in (36 x 58.1 cm). Sold for £3,670,000 on 13 October 2023 at Christie’s in London

Masterpieces from the Collection of Sam Josefowitz: A Lifetime of Discovery and Scholarship

After a short break, Christie’s presented the first in a series of sales dedicated to the scholarly vision of Sam Josefowitz, whose collection assembled over the past half century includes works ranging from Antiquities to Rembrandt, the Pont-Aven School and Les Nabis. Kees van Dongen’s La Quiétude, which depicts two figures entwined, their bright bodies painted midnight blue and siren red, produced the top price of the sale and the evening. Painted in 1918, it sparked intense bidding before selling for £10,755,000. Later, the artist’s Nuages, ou Guus Van Dongen et sa Fille Dolly portées aux Nues sold for £2,460,000.

Diego Giacometti (1902-1985), La console ‘Hommage à Böcklin’, conceived circa 1978. Bronze and iron with green and grey patina and copper. Height: 35⅜ in (90 cm). Sold for £5,122,000 on 13 October 2023 at Christie’s in London

The second-highest price was achieved by Diego Giacometti’s Hommage à Böcklin, (conceived circa 1978), which cruised past its high estimate to £5,122,000. Among the five additional works offered by the artist was Grande table basse à deux plateaux aux grenouilles from the same period, which sold for £1,673,500.

A 13th-century Japanese wood sculpture of a standing Jozo Bosatsu, which until recently has been on long term loan at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Félix Vallotton’s Cinq heures (1898) both achieved £3,670,000. Depicting a couple entwined on a red armchair, Cinq heures is one of only two works from Vallotton’s celebrated series ‘Intérieurs avec figures’ remaining in private hands. Last exhibited in London as part of the Royal Academy’s exhibition Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet, it set a new world record for the artist at auction. Also offered were Vallotton’s Paysage à Marcillac, which sold for £1,492,000; and £882,000 for Un soir sur la Loire.

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Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), Portrait de Mademoiselle Jeanne Faraill, 1888-89. Oil on canvas. 59⅜ x 40⅜ in (150.9 x 102.4 cm). Sold for £2,399,500 on 13 October 2023 at Christie’s in London

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Wood sculpture of a standing Jizo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha). Japan, Kamakura period, 1291 A.D. Height including base: 54½ in (138.5 cm). Sold for £3,670,000 on 13 October 2023 at Christie’s in London

The sale opened with robust interest in Aristide Maillol’s life-size Portrait de Mademoiselle Jeanne Faraill (1888-89), which was first shown in Salon des Artistes Français in Paris in 1890. After a flurry of international bids, it more than doubled the low estimate to reach £2,399,500, setting a new world auction record for a canvas by the artist who is better-known as a sculptor.

The following lot, Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait etching at a Window, an exceptionally fine impression of the fourth state, also sped past its high estimate to reach £277,200. Josefowitz’s collection of Rembrandt prints is the greatest ensemble of the artist’s graphic oeuvre still in private hands. Across two sales at Christie’s in London on 7 December 2023, additional works will be offered in Old Masters Part I and The Sam Josefowitz Collection: Graphic Masterpieces by Rembrandt van Rijn.

Later, an auction record was set for the Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela, when his Autumn — Five Crosses: A preliminary work for the fresco in the Jusélius Mausoleum sold for £1,008,000.

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There were other notable successes: Gustave Caillebotte’s 1878 Portrait d’Eugène Daufresne lisant sold for £2,339,000; while a monumental gilt-bronze figure of a Buddha (14th-15th century) soared past its high estimate before selling for £604,800. After a spirited bidding battle, Albrecht Dürer’s 1515 woodcut titled Rhinoceros also achieved £604,800, more than three times the high estimate.

Among the other strong performers were Giacomo Balla’s Fallimento (prima idea), circa 1902, tripling its high estimate at £352,800; and Jules Pascin’s Homme et femme, which sold for £302,400. The evening closed on a high as Antonio Pollaiuolo’s 15th-century Battle of the Nudes sold for £693,000.

Christie’s 20th/21st Century season continues with the Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale in London on 14 October alongside First Open: Post-War and Contemporary Art Online (until 17 October) followed by the Modern British and Irish Art Evening and Day Sales (18 and 19 October). The Sam Josefowitz Collection moves to Paris with a series of sales revolving around artists of the Pont-Aven School, whose place in the art-historical canon Sam Josefowitz, more than anyone, secured.

Explore Christie’s 20th and 21st Century Art auctions in London and Paris, throughout October 2023. For more information about the London evening sales, read more at Christie’s Press Centre

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