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Flash News : Bacon – Warhol – Ai Weiwei



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: Death of Chu Teh Chun – Bernard Buffet – Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Bacon: six months on from the world record

Six months after Francis BACON landed the world record for a work of art at auction with $127 million , Christie’s is submitting another triptych by the artist in its next major contemporary art sale in May 2014. With two triptychs surfacing in six months, the emergence of works of this quality and price level is further evidence of the extraordinary health of the high-end market, and the unfailing optimism that currently holds sway. As we know, the world record at auction is held by Three Studies of Lucian Freud, a major work from 1969 consisting of three oils on canvas, each measuring 198 x 147.5 cm, which sold for $142.4 million including the buyer’s premium at Christie’s New York on 12 November 2013. This time, Christie’s is offering 3 Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards, a group of three paintings estimated at around $80 million. Executed in 1984, Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards was the key work in the Bacon retrospective at London’s Tate Gallery in 1985-1986. It is also a work considered by the artist himself as one of his best. Christie’s has auctioned the triptych before, in 2001. At that time, its hammer price was equivalent to $4 million. Today, its estimate is twenty times as much.

Warhol and press photography

On 13 May 2014 in New York, Christie’s is selling an iconic work by Andy WARHOL: the 1964 Race riot from the Mapplethorpe collection. It shows the same image repeated four times: in its original colours at the top left (a black and white photograph from a contemporary press report), in a light blue version in the adjacent image, then two versions in blood red at the bottom of the work. This screen print on canvas makes subversive play with a photograph taken during the race riots in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1992, the work was worth $570,000 (Christie’s New York sale on 18 November 1992). Today, it could come close to $50 million – making it one of the most expensive Warhol works in the market. As it happens, his top three bids have been for works from the early Sixties with subjects taken from press photos.

Evidence by Ai Weiwei

As further proof of the restrictions imposed on AI Weiwei by the Chinese authorities, his exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin opened in his absence. Entitled Evidence, this exhibition (which runs until 7 July 2014) is the largest ever dedicated to him, with 18 rooms covering 3,000 square metres. It stages “evidence” of abuse by the Chinese authorities in 34 installations, one being a life-size reconstruction of the cell he was confined in. Arrested by the Chinese police on 3 April 2011 on the pretext of economic crimes and pornography, then freed on bail on 22 June 2011 after 81 days in prison, the artist has been deprived of a passport ever since. Anti-establishment, irreverent and constantly in search of freedom, Ai Weiwei points the finger at the human rights violations, political conflicts, corruption, history and aesthetics of a China where he is prohibited from showing his work. Being gagged in this way naturally affects his market, because although he lives in Beijing, the artist has only sold four works at auction there. The heart of his market beats in the West and Hong Kong, and in fact he recently crossed the million-dollar mark in a Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale on 5 April 2014. His most expensive work is now an installation entitled Map of China , made of material from temples dating from the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911). The piece sold within its estimate range at HKD 7.5 million, i.e. a hammer price of $967,000 and over $1.1 million including the buyer’s premium.

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