Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds Sell Above Estimate
This week's Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening sale in London started off with a bang when the first lot, Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds, came up for sale. The Chinese artist generated headlines around the world when he installed 100 million ceramic sunflowers seeds in the Tate Modern in London and art watchers were curious to see how the art would sell. The first 100-kilogram pile of seeds was estimated to bring in £80,000 to £120,000 but sold for sold for £349,250 ($559,394) or around £3.50 per seed.
Each porcelain sunflower seed was individually hand made and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. The Sotheby's listing suggests that the piece can be installed either in a mound as shown above or smoothed out into a carpet-like experience. There will be a total of ten lots sold from this work.
The top lot at the sale was Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild which sold for £7,209,250($11,547,056). The piece was sought after by five prospective buyers and beat the pre-sale estimate of £5–7 million. The buyer was an anonymous telephone bidder. Andy Warhol's Nine Multicoloured Marilyns went for £3,177,250 against an estimate of £2-3 million and David Hockney's Hotel L'Arbois, Sainte-Maxime of 1968 brought in £1,329,250 withing the estimate of £1-1.5 million. An auction record was established for a work by the Swiss artist Franz Gertsch with the sale of Luciano I for £1,497,250 above the estimate of £500,000-700,000. The sale brought in a total of £44,359,900 ($71,051,252) besting the high estimate of £43 million.
Cheyenne Westphal, Sotheby's Chairman of Contemporary Art Europe said that the total for this evening plus the Looking Closely sale held last week, brought the overall total for Contemporary Art sold in this series to £88 million, Sotheby's highest total for a Contemporary Art sales series in London since July 2008. Is the boom back?