“Tonight we saw a confident art market, punctuated by some real high-points and a depth of bidding. There was much debate about the market ahead of the sale, but in spite of the broader economy, tonight proved that collectors will always compete for works of outstanding quality and rarity.”
-Alex Branczik, Head of Contemporary Art London
Sotheby’s London Evening Auction of Contemporary Art (February 10, 2016) realised £69,461,000 / $100,447,552 / €89,827,274.
The sale was led by Lucian Freud’s modern-day Venus, “Pregnant Girl” from 1960-1 that sold for £16.1 million / $23.2 million, setting a new record for an early painting by the artist, the fourth-highest price for the artist at auction (in £). Pursued by no fewer than six bidders, the work is one of the artist’s most tender paintings -a portrait of his lover, the 17-year-old Bernadine Coverley, pregnant with their daughter, the internationally-renowned fashion designer Bella Freud. It had been in the same collection for 30+ years.
Also, a new record was set for Alberto Burri this evening when “Sacco e Rosso” (c. 1959) sold for £9.1 million / $13.2 million, nearly doubling the previous auction record for the artist (£4.7m set in February 2014). Five years ago, Burri’s record was just £1.9m. This result now places the market for Burri alongside other post-war Italian contemporary masters: Piero Manzoni’s (rec. £12.6m) and Lucio Fontana (rec. £19.3m).
A new record was set also for artist Adrian Ghenie when the colossal van Gogh inspired “Sunflowers in 1937”
(2014) soared over estimate to £3.1 million / $4.5 million. Sotheby’s now holds the top three prices for the artist at auction.
Furthemore, four bidders for Gebirge, the first Gerhard Richter mountain scape to come up at auction since 2008. Sold for £1.5 million / $2.2 million (est. £800,000- £1.2 million) and six bidders for Ai Wei Wei’s iconoclastic photograph “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn”. Sold for £755,000 / $1.1 million (est. £150,000-200,000).