Sotheby's February Contemporary Art Evening Auction achieved its second-highest ever total at £74.4 million ($116.4 million) on Tuesday night.
With 14 works selling for over £1 million, the evening demonstrated the buoyancy of the contemporary art market. Big names sold for respectable, if not spectacular, sums, and three younger artists, Adrian Ghenie, Hurvin Anderson and Giuseppe Penone, achieved record prices.
Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby’s Chairman of Contemporary Art Europe, said in a statement, “Tonight we witnessed healthy buying activity from across the globe, including from Europe, Asia, the US, the CIS, and the rest of the world.”
Francis Bacon’s 1980 oil on canvas diptych Three Studies For a Self-Portrait achieved the highest price at £13,761,250 ($21,532,228), comfortably within its estimated price of £10-15 million. It last sold at auction in 2006, for £3.8 million.
Sotheby’s revealed that the Bacon painting was bought by German collector Jurgen Hall, who plans to loan it to a major international institution. Mr Hall is a tobacco tycoon who lives near Cologne, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (769-1) went for £8,161,250 ($12,769,908), and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Pecho/Oreja) brought in £6,817,250/$10,666,951). The Basquiat was previously owned by the rock band U2, who kept it in their recording studio until 2008, when it was sold at Sotheby’s for £5 million.
While there were no spectacular amounts bid, by art market standards, the main works sold for considerably more than they achieved the last time they were on the market. Few sold for more than the estimated price, however. Some sold for less. The New York Times concludes that bidders are becoming reluctant to go along with the constant hikes imposed by auction houses, particularly at the top end of the price structure.