Hockney Leads $119.8 M. Sotheby’s Sale in London But Cattelan, Banksy, Uecker, Martinez Make the Bigger Splash

Sotheby’s London contemporary evening sale offered little excitement at the top of the market even as it made £92.5 million ($119.8 million). Three of the 46 lots offered in the sale failed to find buyers (one, a Richter abstract in primary colors, was withdrawn before action began), giving the sale a strong and well-managed 93 percent sell-through rate. That doesn’t mean the sale lacked interest: A work by A. R. Penck set a new record for the German artist, and paintings by Eddie Martinez, Wayne Thiebaud, and Gunther Uecker were bid well above estimates. A sculpture by Maurizio Cattelan, newly notorious after the banana feeding frenzy at Art Basel Miami Beach, was also a surprise hit.

Of even greater interest is the fact that the total was almost exactly the same as the previous year—£93.2 million ($120.7 million)—which came from the sale of 19 more lots. Overall, making the same money with 30 percent fewer lots is worthy of notice.

Among the top 10 lots in the sale were works by David Hockney, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, Christopher Wool, and Yves Klein, each selling for £6 million ($7.78 million), but none hammered for prices much beyond the low estimate. The top of the contemporary art market remains well-priced, and some observers found the Hockney sale at a healthy £23,117,000 ($29,820,930) to be a disappointment. The guaranteed work had a few bids but saw no great competition.

Further down the lots were a painting by Adrian Ghenie that made £4.2 million ($5.42 million), with fees, over a £3.5 million ($4.53 million) high estimate; Marlene Dumas’s Cathedral sold for £3.1 million ($4.06 million), which represented a price within the estimate range; and Bridget Riley’s 1963 Op Art black-and-white work Shift sold for a solid £2.7 million ($3.52 million).

From ARTnews Site