Warhol’s Ali One of Few Heavyweights in Christie’s £56.2m London Contemporary Sale
Christie’s London Evening sale of Contemporary art had few star lots—but only one that failed to find a buyer—yet it managed to pull in a total £56.2 million ($72.8 million), down little more than a quarter from the previous year’s comparable sale. Two lots, one by Christopher Wool and one by Glenn Ligon, were withdrawn before the sale, leaving nevertheless an outsize number of lots—56—for the time and venue. Christie’s managed the sale exceptionally well, including convincing the consignor of a Gerhard Richter constellation painting to accept a price two-thirds of the low estimate.
Overall, the sale continues to reinforce the impression that the Contemporary art market has compressed toward works in the so-called middle market price band, below $5 million.
The night’s top lots were the late West Coast collector Richard L. Weisman’s commissioned portrait of Muhammad Ali by Andy Warhol, which made £4.97 million. It was the lead lot among the ten sports figures depicted by the artist at Mr. Weisman’s request. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jack Nicklaus, and O.J. Simpson were also legendary personalities from the series who sold better than their estimates. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Mosque sold for £3.9 million, falling below its low estimate but still ranking among the most valuable lots of the evening. The same was true of Sigmar Polke’s untitled work, which reached £3.13 million while also failing to reach the low estimate. David Hockney’s 2006 landscape Walnut Trees sold well at £3.25 million, to come fourth among the lots sold by value.
Albert Oehlen’s Mission Rohrfrei (Down Periscope) from 1996 continued the artist’s market run, being the first of the top ten lots to achieve its price through aggressive bidding. The final price of £3.19 million reflected a hammer price of £2.65 million that edged slightly above its £2.5 million high estimate.