It looks like art market watchers (including me) were right for the wrong reasons
. At the Sotheby's
contemporary art auction last night, $84.5 million in sales were completed, but the highly coveted Lucian Freud
didn't hit its low estimate. Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein
, Willem de Kooning
, Peter Doig
and Frank Auerbach, however, led to pitched bidding battles.
The evening's highest price was paid for de Kooning's "Untitled XIV," which fetched 4 million pounds over the phone, beating its high-end estimate by a third. The seller was a collector from Europe who picked up the painting from the artist's estate. Doig's "Saint Anton (Flat Light)," an Alpine scene, was good for 2.8 million, also via phone.
But, Lucian Freud still stole the spotlight, if not the top bid. His self-portrait with a black eye carried a low-end presale estimate of 2.8 million
– after having been offered at a lower price in private sale before the auction. The seller, Victor Chandler, is a bookmaker based in Gibraltar with a penchant for secrecy: his press officer refused to be named (according to Bloomberg News
The Lenz collection
, also high-profile, performed very well at Sotheby's. Only one of the 47 lots wasn't able to move, and the entire collection sold for 23.2 million pounds, soundly beating a presale estimate of 11.2 million pounds to 15.2 million pounds. The most expensive piece was Klein's "Fire" painting "F 88," which brought in 3.3 million pounds, just shy of its high estimate of 3.5 million.
The evening's surprise came from Auerbach, who's 1956 drawing was purchased by London art dealer Offer Waterman for 1 million pounds, far above the presale estimate of 50,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds. Interestingly, Sotheby's senior international specialist Oliver Barker noted to Bloomberg News
, "The gap between Auerbach and Freud and Bacon is closing." Are we seeing a new evolution in the Francis Bacon supply chain
Overall, the contemporary art auction beat its high-end presale estimate of 45 million pounds and thrashed the 2009 result for the same auction, a mere 17.9 million pounds for 27 lots.