Tonight, at Sotheby’s London, the auction house sold £93.3 million (about $122.9 million) worth of contemporary art in an auction that saw 60 of 66 lots sell, yielding a robust 91 percent sell-through rate. Three auction records were set, for artists Rebecca Warren, Adam Pendleton, and Toyin Ojih Odutola.
The priciest work of the night was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Apex (1986), which hammered to a phone bidder at £7.5 million after about four minutes of competition. With premium, its price was £8.23 million ($10.8 million). The work had been guaranteed to sell, with the auction house obtaining a so-called irrevocable bid from an interested buyer for the work, and it had carried an on-request estimate said to be around £5 million to £7 million ($6.56 million–$9.18 million).
All sales prices include buyer’s premium, except where noted: 25 percent of the hammer price up to and including £300,000 ($394,000); 20 percent for the segment running up to and including £3 million ($3.94 million); and 13.9 percent for any sum above £3 million.
The Basquiat was being offered by a collector who acquired it in 1995 from dealer Gian Enzo Sperone in Rome. Earlier in its journey through various collections, the piece had sold for £16,000 at hammer ($28,190) at Christie’s London in June 1988, a little more than a month before the artist’s death at the age of 27.
It’s a big moment for Basquiat right now, with a blockbuster survey inaugurating the Brant Foundation’s new location in Manhattan’s East Village and another exhibition on deck at the Guggenheim Museum in New York later this year.
The solid auction performance came days after Sotheby’s posted a profit for the fourth quarter of 2018 that was up 12 percent over its 2017 results during the same period. The auction house also reported that its overall sales were up 16 percent in 2018 versus the year prior.
Other top lots included Gerhard Richter’s yellow and red Abstraktes Bild (2009), measuring about 70 inches square, which sold for £6.92 million ($9.12 million) on an estimate of £6 million to £8 million ($7.87 million–$10.5 million).
And a 12-foot-tall Jenny Saville portrait of a woman seen from behind, titled Juncture (1994), went for £5.44 million ($7.17 million) on a £5 million–to-£7 million estimate ($6.56 million–$9.18 million). That, too, carried an irrevocable bid. That result was quite an increase over the £457,250 (about $656,000 at the time) it earned back in 2009 at Christie’s London.
Last October, another Saville went for $12.4 million in the same salesroom used for tonight’s auction—a result that made her the most expensive living female artist at auction.
An editioned porcelain enamel on steel piece from 1964 by Roy Lichtenstein also performed nicely. Number four from an edition of eight, the work went for £5.84 million ($7.7 million) against a £5 million-to-£7 million estimate ($6.56 million–$9.18 million). The piece last sold at Sotheby’s in New York only a little more than three years ago, in November 2015, for $7.19 million.
Among the passes were a David Hockney drawing, a Rudolf Stingel painting, and a Mark Bradford mixed-media work in black and silver, which had been estimated to go for £2.3 million to £3.5 million ($3.03 million–$4.61 million).
The auction action continues in the British capital tomorrow, with Christie’s holding a postwar and contemporary evening sale.