London Modern and Contemporary Auctions: A Market Minus the Froth

London Modern and Contemporary Auctions: A Market Minus the Froth

Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips are auctioning traditional summer of modern and contemporary art in the British capital as some of the world’s top tennis players work in Wimbledon this week and the war intensifies in Ukraine. We held a week.

Headline auction prices say London is currently losing to Paris as a hub for high-end art auctions: a total commission of £ 30.1 million, or about $ 36.9 million, but two in the same sale twice. Various Claude Monet paintings paid once, and about $ 52.8 million purchased a portrait of Lucian Freud’s Francis Bacon. France’s share of global auction sales rose to 9% and Britain shrank to 13% after the UK left the European Union last year, according to the latest Annual Art Basel & UBS Global Art Market Report. ..

“Collectors travel around the world to see and buy great art,” said Offer Waterman, a London-based British modern and contemporary art dealer. “It doesn’t matter where they are. The concept of hubs doesn’t really matter.”

Moreover, in the pandemic era of virtual and hybrid livestream auctions, you don’t have to travel anywhere else to see or buy art.

For example, at Philips on Thursday, at the last major auction in the summer of contemporary art, only one of 31 sales lots raised a total of $ 21.3 million was sent to buyers in the room. All other successful buyers were bidding by phone or online. The evening star lot “Moiaussijedéborde” was sold to Canadian online bidders for $ 2.1 million by Flora Yukhnovich, a young British market sensation in rose pink, on a typical Rococo canvas of 2017. .. Low estimate.

“Everyone is worried about these artists,” New York-based art adviser Kim Highaston said in an interview at Phillips, which is currently creating intense demand at contemporary art auctions. Mentioned the work of a selected group of female painters in their 20s and 30s. ..

Harston said it took more than 60 years for the work of the acclaimed colorfield painter Helen Frankenthaler to break through the $ 1 million barrier at auction. “Now it takes nanoseconds,” Heirston said.

Apparently there are top-end auctions of contemporary art everywhere in the world, which must kick start with a piece of the same mandatory name. After a record price surge in New York in May, at least here in London, some of the heat seems to have been taken away from the auction market for paintings by emerging artists. The works of Anna Weiant (dating mega dealer Larry Gagosian), Shara Hughes, and Christina Quares all soared to seven-digit highs in New York, but bids were more measured here.

On Wednesday, Sotheby’s sold a pick of Wyant’s paintings and was awarded $ 567,995 for the 2020 canvas “Buffet.” At the same auction, Quarles’ 2017 multi-layer painting “We Wake in Mourning Jus Tha Same” was $ 644,751.The day before, Christie’s offered the most valuable Brooklyn-based Hughes’ AtFull Tilt’s landscape from 2017 reached $ 896,692. These were practically good enough, but the bids weren’t desperately shouted like in May.

“London is always a bit less bubbling and a little worse,” said Heirston, referring to the overall quality of the work offered at these June auctions.

Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s have abandoned the traditional separate forms of Impressionism and modern and contemporary sales, and instead offer marathon mashups of 20th and 21st century materials.Christie’s started on Tuesday afternoon Marc Chagall’s $ 11.9 million single-owner auction of 20 works from the artist’s real estate, followed by a mixed-owner sale of 86 lots, combined with a live stream auction first in London and then in Paris, for more than three hours. It took. The first session of 61 lots raised $ 222 million, followed by another $ 16.2 million from 25 lots in Paris, to keep London a European hub for international trophy art sales. I emphasized.

Christie’s sales were led by two desirable museum-quality paintings from the Monet series. The 1904 canvas “Waterloo Bridge, effet de brune” and the 1907 “Nymphéas, temps gris” were both sold to the same telephone bidder for $ 36.9 million, as estimated.

While this level of fine art rarely surprises the sales floor, Christie’s sale also included a painting by Ernie Barnes, “Main Street Pool Hall,” circa 1976. It sold in New York in May for a record $ 15.3 million. The result was a knock-on effect in London. Burns’ distinctive pool hall depiction was sold to New York-based City Private Bank Art Advisory & Finance for $ 1.8 million. This is about 18 times the estimate.

The next night, Sotheby’s sold 49 lots of modern and contemporary work, backed by 33 British works of art, offered to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The UK entry includes Francis Bacon’s lesser-known 1964 “Lucian Freud Portrait Study”, which is estimated to sell for about $ 50 million. Bacon was a non-uniform painter, and this large gold-framed canvas hadn’t been released for more than 50 years, but its clunky composition attracted only one over-the-warrant phone bid and was sold for $ 52.8 million. rice field. The bid was placed by Mark Poltimore, Vice Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, which often represents Russian customers.

Andy Warhol’s rare, large-scale 1986 “Fright Wig” self-portrait was similarly less competitive. This self-portrait was sold in a single bid by the guarantor, as it is becoming more and more expensive in lots. This was the sale of Sotheby’s, which raised $ 181.8 million in the evening, costing $ 15.5 million.

In recent years, unsold lots have virtually disappeared from the marquee auction, thanks to a third-party guarantor that guarantees the lowest prices. But here in Sotheby’s, David Hockney’s monumental Yorkshire landscape, Waldgate Woods II, May 16 and 17, 2006, didn’t sell for a very low estimate of $ 12 million. It was. Banksy worth $ 5 million was also unsold.

“I feel there has been a turnaround,” said Christine Bourron, CEO of Pi-eX, a London-based company that analyzes art auctions. Bourron added that the guarantor’s hesitation in funding large lots was a “warning sign.” Demand will be a little less. “

The $ 2.8 billion delivered by Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips in May was always a difficult act to follow, while the $ 453 million achieved here is relative to London’s position as an international auction center. Bring strength internationally. perspective. According to Pi-eX, in 2015, Sotheby’s and Christie’s evening auctions in London raised $ 747 million during the era of separate sales of “Imps & Mods” and “contemps.”

“London is suffering from Brexit and the international economic situation after Covid,” Baron said.

Is this just a London issue? Or is there a problem with the wider international art market? You need to look it up at the New York Marquee Auction in the fall.


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