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Sotheby's Contemporary Art Auction Realises $62 Million-Within Pre-Sale Expectations
Headlining the sale was Yves Klein’s work, RE 49, Relief Eponge Bleu, which saw competition from four bidders for around three minutes and sold for £6,201,250 (est. £4.5-6.5 million). Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- This evening, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction realised the solid total of £41,091,800 ($61,806,176/€50,111,626) – within pre-sale expectations (est: £38,330,000- 52,830,000). This represents the third highest total for a Summer Sale of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s London and is a 60% increase on the equivalent sale last year. The sale established sell-through rates of 83% by lot and 87.3% by value, and saw 45.4% of the sold lots achieve prices in excess of their pre-sale high estimates.

Commenting on the sale tonight, Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s Chairman Contemporary Art Europe, said: “We assembled the auction with a focus on classic works from the 1950s and 1960s by blue-chip artists and carefully considered quality, provenance and pricing. Tonight’s solid results, well above the June 2009 total, build on the recent successes of New York and London and affirm the strength and trajectory of the market for Contemporary Art and the renewed confidence from both buyers and sellers alike. Blue-chip artists, such as Klein, Fontana, Richter, Auerbach and Warhol led the way tonight and we established an average sold lot value of £933,904 – the strongest at Sotheby’s London since July 2008.”

Discussing the results of the British Art collection Oliver Barker, Senior Director and Senior International Specialist, said: “We are pleased with the results overall tonight, in particular the British and School of London Art which triumphed and saw the works in this field from a private collection total £4,256,750, near the high estimate for the group. Frank Auerbach’s ‘Mornington Crescent – Summer Morning’ led the group, selling for £2.2 million - a new record for the artist in GBP - which means Sotheby’s has now established four of the top five prices for the artist at auction. These results further consolidate Sotheby’s strength in the field of British Art.”

Headlining the sale was Yves Klein’s work, RE 49, Relief Eponge Bleu, which saw competition from four bidders for around three minutes and sold for £6,201,250 (est. £4.5-6.5 million). The work was created at the height of the artist’s career and came to auction from the collection of HypoVereinsbank. The proceeds of the sale of this work - one of only a small number of large-scale blue Relief Eponge to have remained in private hands - will enable the bank to carry out future art-related and cultural projects. Further works by Yves Klein to sell well this evening included his gold leaf of panel, MG42, which fetched £481,250 ($732,848 / €586,886) above the pre-sale estimate of £200,000-300,000, almost six times the price the work sold for (£80,500) when it last appeared at auction, in June 2000; and the artist’s fire painting F124, which sold for £914,850 ($1,376,026 / €1,115,663) against an estimate of £800,000-1,200,000.

Commanding £3,737,250 ($5,621,198 / €4,557,592), against an estimate of £3.5 4.5 million, Gerhard Richter’s monumental (145 by 200cm) oil on canvas Neger (Nuba), highlighted the works in the sale by the German artist. The painting, which achieved a sum over 12 times what it realised in 1995 (£298,500), is a masterpiece of Richter’s groundbreaking photopainting of the 1960s and is exceptional for its very early execution date, impressive scale (at two metres across), exquisite execution, and its extraordinary re-presentation of subject matter. The artist’s oil on canvas Abstraktes Bild (100 by 90cm) sold within estimate (est. £1-1.5 million) for £1,161,250 ($1,746,636 / €1,416,149).

The British/School of London Art Collection performed well realising a total of £4,256,750 ($6,402,578 / €5,191,125) against a pre-sale estimate of £3.35-4.54 million. Headlining the group was Frank Auerbach’s oil on canvas Mornington Crescent – Summer Morning, a sublime example of the landscapes for which Frank Auerbach is celebrated as one of the greatest British painters working today. The painting saw intense competition and commanded £2,281,250 ($3,431,228 / €2,781,994) above estimate (est. £1.5-2 million). Further works in the group that also sold well: Leon Kossoff’s oil on panel King’s Cross, March Afternoon brought £457,250 ($687,750 / €557,618) (est. £250,000-350,000) establishing a new record for the artist at auction; and Patrick Heron’s October Horizon: October 1957 realised £481,250 ($723,848 /€586,886) (est. £250,000-350,000).

Executed in 1963, Concetto Spaziale, La Fine di Dio by Lucio Fontana (176 by 122cm) sold for £4,745,250 ($7,137,331 /€5,786,853) (est. £4.5-5.5 million). The iconic oval canvas, suggesting themes of birth and regeneration, spectacularly redefines the boundaries between sculpture and painting. A laceration and graffiti on copper, measuring 117 by 57cm, by the artist, Concetto Spaziale, New York 21, 1962, realised £914,850 ($1,376,026 /€1,115,663) against its estimate of £800,000-1,200,000.

Bharti Kher’s celebrated sculpture The Skin Speaks a Language not its Own established not only a record for the artist at auction but also a new record for any work by a Contemporary female Indian artist at auction, when it sold for the remarkable sum of £993,250 ($1,493,947 /€1,211,273) (est. £700,000-1,000,000). The life-sized elephant is one of the most iconic and most talked-about works of art by a contemporary Indian artist and the masterpiece of the leading female artist of her generation.

Leading the pieces in the auction by Andy Warhol was the artist’s Camouflage Self Portrait, which brought £1,721,250 ($2,588,932 / €2,099,072) (est. £1.5-2.5 million). The work belongs to the artist’s renowned series of 'Self-Portraits' and was executed in 1986, just months before his unexpected death on 22 February 1987.

Sotheby's | Contemporary Art Auction | Cheyenne Westphal | Oliver Barker |

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June 29, 2010

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