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Contemporary Art at Sotheby's Totals $84.8 Million, Well in Excess of Pre-Sale Expectations
The top-selling work of this exceptional collection was Yves Klein’s 1961 fire, body and water imprints on paper laid down on wood F88. Photo: Sotheby´s.

LONDON.- This evening, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale brought the exceptionally strong total of £54,074,450 / $84,761,700 / €61,461,160 – well in excess of pre-sale expectations (Estimate: £32,157,000-44,986,000), establishing the second highest total for a February Sale of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s. The auction achieved remarkable sell-through rates: 97.9% by lot and 99.4% by value – the highest ever for a various owners sale of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s London. Overall, 21 new artist records were set.

Discussing the results, Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s Chairman of Contemporary Art Europe, said: “The outstanding sell-through rates, depth of bidding across the sale – particularly for Lenz – and strong prices we achieved this evening are a clear sign of renewed confidence in this market and build on the positive and strong results of our New York sale in November. The result for ZERO Art: Property from the Sammlung Lenz Schönberg is affirmation of the market’s hunger and thirst for coherent private collections of visual and fresh to the market works with exceptional provenance. Having been widely exhibited in museums across the world, ZERO Art has now also conquered the art market.”

ZERO Art: Property from the Sammlung Lenz Schönberg
ZERO Art: Property from the Sammlung Lenz Schönberg – a 600-strong collection of ZERO movement Art assembled by Gerhard and Anna Lenz over a period of 50 years – which represented the first 47 lots of this evening’s 77-lot Contemporary Art Sale generated tremendous excitement. The first four works in the sale – by Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, Jan Schoonhoven and Gunther Uecker - set the pace for the auction as each piece saw competition from multiple bidders both on the telephone and in the saleroom and set records for the artists at auction. The entire collection soared well above pre-sale expectations and realised the remarkable total of £23,213,050 / $36,386,456 / €26,384,013 (est. £11.1-15.1 / $17.4-23.8 / €12.6-17.2 million). Works of art by Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana led the collection which established an outstanding 19 new artist records and saw 93.5% of the sold lots (only one lot failed to find a buyer) realise prices above their high estimates.

Speaking about the results achieved for the works sold from his collection of ZERO Art, Mr Lenz said: “For a collector who has passionately pursued every single picture in his collection over a period a 50 years, an auction is a momentous experience. This was my plan for Zero and we have succeeded.”

The top-selling work of this exceptional collection was Yves Klein’s 1961 fire, body and water imprints on paper laid down on wood F88. The work – one of the largest and most significant example of Klein’s renowned Fire Paintings ever to be presented at auction – was vied for by two bidders and sold to a buyer in the saleroom for £3,289,250 / $5,155,899 / €3,738,570 against a pre-sale estimate of £2.8-3.5 million - the work set a new auction record for a fire painting by the artist.

Establishing the second and third highest prices of the Lenz Collection, were two exemplary Metalli series works by Lucio Fontana, each of which were the subject of intense competition. The first, Concetto Spaziale, New York 26, dominated by the artist’s single vertical slash on copper is an iconic artwork of irresistible visual power and commanded £3,065,250 / $4,804,779 / €3,483,971 more than doubling its pre-sale low estimate (est. £1.5-2 million) and the second, the 1964 holes and graffiti on copper, Concetto Spaziale, also performed well, selling for £2,057,250 / $3,224,739 / €2,338,276, again above pre-sale expectations (est. £1.5-2 million).

Fontana’s 1956 oil, mixed media and glass stones on canvas Concetto Spaziale, Ritratto di Carlo Cardazzo also performed well and after competition from 9 bidders, brought £2,729,250 / $4,278,099 / €3,102,073, almost three times its pre-sale low estimate (est. £1-1.5 million), setting a new auction record for a glass stones series work by the artist. While other examples from this series are now housed in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.

Further highlights include:

• Yves Klein’s 1961 gold leaf on panel MG 25 which achieved a sum of £1,665,250 / $2,610,279 / €1,892,727 - more than double its low estimate (est. £800,000-1,200,000).

Works that set new records for the artists at auction, among many others, include:

• Heinz Mack’s Untitled (Lamellen-Relief) which sold for £205,250 / $321,729 / €233,288 – over eight times its low estimate (est. £25,000-35,000)

• Rauchbild by Otto Piene brought £223,250 / $349,944 / €253,747 (est. £35,000 45,000)

• Jan Schoonhoven’s Weibes Struckturrelief R 62-1 commanded £780,450 / $1,223,355 / €887,061 (est. £150,000-250,000)

• Haar Der Nymphen by Gunther Uecker realised £825,250 / $1,293,579 / €937,981 (est. £100,000-150,000).

Highlights from the Various Owners ighlights section of the Sale
Tonight’s sale was headlined by Willem de Kooning’s ‘Untitled XIV', which sold for £3.96 / $6.2 million and was closely followed by Peter Doig’s monumental canvas Saint Anton (Flat Light) – a masterful rendering of a snowy mountain scene in the “flat light” of dense fog – which sold for £2,841,250 / €3,229,372 / $4,453,659 against an estimate of £2,000,000-3,000,000.

Lucian Freud’s rediscovered ‘Self Portrait with a Black Eye’ sold to an anonymous buyer for £2,841,250 / $4,453,659 and headlined the group of works by Freud, which combined brought a total of £4,677,000 / $7,331,196.

Additional strong prices include:

• Achrome by Piero Manzoni (lot 58), a work in kaolin from 1958 - the year in which the artist first employed this revolutionary medium – soared above its £1,500,000-2,000,000 estimate, selling for £2,841,250 / $ 4,453,659 / €3,229,372

• Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild – one of the most elegant examples from the artist’s epic corpus of abstract paintings - sold for £2,505,250 / $3,926,979 / €2,847,474 against an estimate of £2,000,000-3,000,000.

• Frank Auerbach’s Head of Leon Kossoff, a charcoal and chalk on paper from 1956, was pursued by five bidders and sold for £1,038,050 / $1,627,143 / €1,179,850, well above its pre-sale estimate of £60,000-80,000.

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