Sotheby’s London Contemporary Art Auction Generates Excitement

Sotheby | London Contemporary Evening Auction
Sotheby's London Contemporary Evening Auction. Source: Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s London held a contemporary art sale this week, including the seventh edition of The Now auction featuring ultra-contemporary works, generating $126.6 million in total sales. The auction was considered reasonably successful.

The auction featured 60 lots and lasted for two hours, with 21 lots pre-sold through guarantees. However, caution among consignors was evident, leading to the withdrawal of 14% of the originally marketed works, including a Blue Period Picasso portrait and a Josef Albers painting. Overall, the bidding was described as “slow, measured, and respectable,” and Sotheby’s expressed optimism about the results, noting that the “froth of 2023 was clearing.”

The sell-through rate was 90% by lot, but only 77% if withdrawals were considered as passed lots. Despite the overall decrease in sales, the night’s highlight was a Picasso painting titled “Homme à la pipe” (1968), which had never been seen at auction before and fetched £11.7m (£13.7m with fees) after a four-minute bidding battle.

Francis Bacon’s “Study of George Dyer” achieved the second-highest price at $8.7 million. While some lots generated excitement, others, like Andy Warhol’s “Flowers,” did not lead to the anticipated bidding war.

Portrait de Geneviève avec un collier de colombes (1944) by Françoise Gilot, from the collection of Arianna Huffington, sold for $918,774, marking one of the highest prices for Gilot at auction. The auction saw global participation, with bidders from 41 countries, although there was a notable lack of Asian bidders.

The Now auction showcased twelve works by emerging artists, including notable sales for Takako Yamaguchi, Jadé Fadojutimi, and Emma Webster. Notably, several female artists, including Yamaguchi and Rebecca Warren, set records, and 60 percent of works by female artists exceeded their high estimates.

The sale confirmed the growing market presence of Romanian artist Victor Man, with his painting “The Chandler” reaching $515,803, five times its high estimate. Iraqi artist Mohammed Sami also had a successful night, with “Electric Column” selling for $241,783.


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