Fears linked to Brexit seem to have receded and Sotheby’s continued the spirited start in contemporary art made by Christie’s the day before (see An Evening of Records at Christie’s) with a sale that totaled £118 million. As the auction house proudly announced in its press release, the sum was almost double last year’s figure. In February 2016, the London sale had difficulty in reaching £69.4 million.
Just like at Christie’s the evening before, there were few disappointments and 93.4% of the works found a buyer. The most impressive sale was unquestionably one of the three paintings in Gerhard Richter’s series of Icebergs, which had been in the same collection since 1983. Sotheby’s states that five collectors battled for ten minutes to win this icy landscape, which was knocked down for £17.7 million, notably above its estimate of £12 million.
Germany was much in evidence as another record was set for a work by Georg Baselitz: Mit Roter Fahne, one of the artist’s series during the 1960s on the figure of the hero, reached £7.5 million.
The sum paid for a work by Wolfgang Tillmans beat the record set the evening before at Christie’s with a work in the same series, Freischwimmer 119, which was knocked down for £464,750.
One of the most noteworthy sales was a painting by American artist Christopher Wool, which doubled its estimate, reaching £7.1 million. Among the American artists, Basquiat confirmed his standing, always on the rise, with the sale of one of his canvases for £12 million. Sotheby’s notes that in 1987 it was sold for $23,100.
Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s Head of European Contemporary Art, stated, “The past week, across London and beyond, was the first real test of the contemporary market in 2017 and by every measure it has proven itself to be in rude health. All the evidence is there; approaching double the total we achieved this time last year, strong prices across a broad spectrum of artists, and increased activity from every corner of the globe.” All good reasons to be confident about 2017.