Giorgio Morandi's classic 'Natura Morta 1951' leads Sotheby's Contemporary Art sale in Milan

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Giorgio Morandi's classic 'Natura Morta 1951' leads Sotheby's Contemporary Art sale in Milan
The sale was led by Giorgio Morandi’s tranquil painting, Natura Morta, from 1951, which soared above its high estimate to €1.452.500 / $1,629,531 – the third highest price ever achieved for an artwork in an online sale at Sotheby’s (lot 19, est. €750.000-1.000.000). Courtesy Sotheby's.

MILAN.- Sotheby’s online sale of Contemporary Art in Milan realised €10.415.375 / $11,684,801, soaring above its pre-sale estimate of €6.625.000-9,167,000. This is the second highest total ever achieved for an online sale staged by Sotheby’s globally, and the highest-achieving online sale mounted in Europe. 89% of the lots offered were sold, with 70% of those exceeding their high estimates. The auction also saw activity from 20% more bidders than in Milan’s last live Contemporary Art sale in November 2019, with participants hailing from 23 countries – almost double the number of regions than in the previous live auction. Attracting an average of 8.6 bids per lot, the auction saw competitive bidding through to the final day and in the final seconds.

‘Contemporary Art | Milan’ is one of numerous sales at Sotheby’s that had originally been scheduled as live auctions, but – in light of current global circumstances – have been converted into an online sale. This is the now the 90th online auction staged at Sotheby’s since the 20th March, which together have realised a total of $146.5 million – over twelve times the total raised over the same period in 2019 ($12.3 million).

Marta Giani, Head of Sale: “We are proud to have proven our belief in the Italian market and to have executed an exceptional sale, with results beyond our wildest expectations, even in these unusual times. This occasion has hugely boosted the positivity and confidence of both Italian and international collectors. The market is clearly alive and ready to adapt to the online culture.”

Top Lot: The sale was led by Giorgio Morandi’s tranquil painting, Natura Morta, from 1951, which soared above its high estimate to €1.452.500 / $1,629,531 – the third highest price ever achieved for an artwork in an online sale at Sotheby’s (lot 19, est. €750.000-1.000.000). Quick fire bids also pushed the final totals for two further works of the same title by Morandi beyond their high-estimates: the first an oil on canvas to €1.068.500 / $1,198,729 (lot 28, est. €650.000-850.000) and a pencil drawing to €75.000 / $84,141 (lot 9, est. €30.000-40.000).

Further highlights: Created exclusively for the cover of Vanity Fair Italia, Francesco Vezzoli’s L'Italia siamo noi - Omaggio a Lucio Fontana quadrupled its low estimate to realise €87.500 / $98,164 (lot 34, est. €20.000-80.000). Acquired by an American collector closely linked to Italy, proceeds from the sale will be donated to the research project of the Policlinico di Milano on Covid-19. Paying tribute to Italy in light of coronavirus, and reminiscent of Lucio Fontana, a slash in the canvas represents the wound and the gap left by the current pandemic.

An Celotex work executed in 1954 by Alberto Burri also exceeded its high estimate to achieve €552.500 / $619,839 (lot 21, est. €240.000-340.000). In his first appearance at auction in Italy, Liu Ye’s stylised painting, The Last Tempter, sold for €275.000 / $308,517 (lot 17, est. €180.000-250.000). The sale coincides with the artist’s solo exhibition at Fondazione Prada, Milan. A further piece by Liu Ye, Leave Me in the Dark, will headline Sotheby’s most ambitious Contemporary Art spring sales in Asia with an estimate of HK$25-35 million / $3.2-4.5 in July 2020.

Lucio Fontana’s blue Concetto Spaziale, Attesa led six further works by the Italian master after it raising €552.500 / $619,839 (lot 18, est. €300.000-400.000). 46 bids from across the globe were placed across all the works by Fontana, and over halve of those offered exceeded their pre-sale high estimates, together totalling €1.794.000 / $2,012,653 (lot 4, 12, 24, 25, 29 and 38).

The sale saw competitive bidding and exceptional prices for works by Piero Manzoni, whose Merda d’artista doubled its pre-sale estimate, selling for €250.000 / $280,470 (lot 11, est. €120.000-180.000). Elsewhere, a new world record was set for Gino de Dominicis when 26 bids pushed the final price for his sculpture, Senza Titolo, to €492.500 / $552,526 (lot 50, est. €80.000-120.000). Alighero Boetti’s Segno e disegno also fetched a record for a work in this series, achieving €200.000 / $224,376 (lot 1 est. €80.000-120.000), and finally a dynamic sculpture by Fausto Melotti (Lot 53, est. €60.000-80.000), tripled its high estimate to reach €250.000 / $280,470.

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