Latest from London’s Contemporary art market…


A year after the Brexit vote (during London’s major art sales in June 2016), Christie’s traditional June Contemporary Art sale was absent from its 2017 programme. In fact this year, Christie’s is focusing most of its energy on the development of exclusively online sales, including the very first online sales of Post-War & Contemporary Art (11-19 July 2017) and Contemporary Editions (11-19 July 2017). Consequently, Sotheby’s, Phillips and Bonhams shared most of the attention and financial power of collectors at the end of June.

With 39 out of 41 works finding buyers (a 95% sold rate), Sotheby’s Post-War & Contemporary Art sale on June 28 confirmed strong demand for American art (essentially the high-end). There were good results – well above their estimates – for works by Josef Albers, Cecily Brown, Wolfgang Tillmans and Louise LAWLER (1947) whose Anonymous (a large photograph from an edition of five) fetched $208,000, twice its estimate. That was the third best result for this important American artist who is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at the MoMA (Louise Lawler: Why pictures now, MoMA New York, until 30 July 2017). Among the most spectacular results of this session, an imposing joint work by Andy & Jean-Michel WARHOL & BASQUIAT – Sweet Pungent (244.5 x 206 cm) from the Tommy Hilfiger collection – fetched twice its pre-sale estimate at $5.7 million. The result was logical considering that the amicable and creative symbiosis of the two icons of American art generated no more than sixty collaborative works combining Warhol’s Pop Art aesthetics with Basquiat’s bubbling expressiveness. Unusually, Sotheby’s also offered a second joint work by the two stars, New Flame, which fetched $3 million. Both artists were was also represented by solo works, including a Warhol self-portrait shown on the catalogue cover (which fetched nearly $7.7million) and an untitled tall canvas by Basquiat (1983) which fetched $8.3 million. Among the other big names, works by Jean Dubuffet, Richard Prince and Roy Lichtenstein generated results between 4 and 6 million dollars. They were joined in this price bracket by the much younger Mark GROTJAHN (1968), whose Untitled (White Butterfly Mpg 03) fetched no less than $5.16 million (two million more than New Flame by the two ‘historic’ stars Basquiat and Warhol) confirming the strong momentum that has already made 2017 his best-ever year on the auction market.

With an overall total of $80.2 million, Sotheby’s posted an improvement on its Post-War & Contemporary Art sale in June 2016 (+16% in dollars and +20% in pounds).

After Sotheby’s, Bonhams and Phillips held their specialized sales on 29 and 30 June with Bonhams selling a painting titled Dream Deferral by the American artist Mark BRADFORD (1961). Two years ago, on 14 October 2015, the work fetched $1.37 million at Christie’s; this time, it sold for $2 million. The following day, Phillips generated several million-plus results for Keith Haring Rudolf Stingel, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Peter Doig, Mark Bradford, Bridget Riley, Albert Oehlen, Lucio Fontana and Michelangelo Pistoletto as well as a remarkable new record at nearly $784,000 for a monumental and unique photograph by Wolfgang TILLMANS (1968) (Freischwimmer #84, 238.8 x 181 cm, edition 1/1)… yet another confirmation of Tillman’s rapid market evolution: his eighth new auction record since the beginning of this year!