To get the backstory behind Henry Taylor’s auction records, as well as information about the sellers of the Gerhard Richter and Damien Hirst in Sotheby’s Paris and London October evening sales, read Colin Gleadell’s detailed Art Market Monitor report on buyers and sellers available to AMMpro subscribers.
On Wednesday, following news that the house would offer a $90 million Giacometti via private sale, Sotheby’s held back-to-back modern and contemporary evening sales, in Paris and then in London, generating a total of $90.4 million.
The auctioneers—Oliver Barker in London and Helena Newman in Paris—swiftly mastered the new live-streamed format, fielding bids from specialists from four global venues New York, London, Paris, and Asia, as well as online bids.
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The contemporary portion of the event realized a total of £47.8 million ($62.2 million) with buyer’s premium across 41 lots (hammering at £39.5 million). Six lots were withdrawn before the sale’s start, adjusting the estimate to £42.4 million–£60 million. The result landed below last year’s equivalent sale total of £54.7 million, yielding a sell-through rate of 83 percent.
The modern segment of the night staged from Paris, called “Modernités,” saw a record total for the sale category, netting $28.2 million (€23.8 million) with buyer’s premium. Without the premium, it hammered below the estimate of €21.5 million–30.4 million ($25.4-35.9 million) at $23 million, with 80 percent sell-through rate. Four lots were withdrawn from the sale before the start, indicating reservations among consignors. First staged in 2017, to coincide with FIAC, Wednesday’s sale was the fourth iteration.
Twenty-four of the modern lots were guaranteed, and eight of the lots in the contemporary sale were guaranteed.
Street artist Banksy’s Show Me the Monet (2005), a parody of Claude Monet’s famous Giverny scene, was the highest seller of the night, won after an eight-minute bidding spar for $9.8 million (£7.6 million) by an Asian private collector bidding with Patti Wong, Sotheby’s Asia chairman. The Art Newspaper reported that London-based collectors Roland and Jane Cowan were the sellers. It is the second-highest price ever achieved for artist at auction.
Among the other highlights of the night in the modern auction was Picasso’s Tête d’Homme (1940), once owned by dealer Jan Krugier, which came with a third-party guarantee and sold for €4.4 million ($5.2 million). It hammered below the low estimate of $4.7 million, likely going to the guarantor. Francis Picabia’s portrait of mythological king Minos from 1929 from a European seller sold for $4.7 million (€4 million), against an estimate of €2.8 million–3.5 million. The price ranks in the top three highest ones for artist at auction. The painting was commissioned by Paris dealer Léonce Rosenberg.
The third-highest price in the modern sale was Japanese modernist Kazuo Shiraga’s abstract painting Chikaisei Shinsanshi (1961), which made €2.5 million ($3 million) in its auction debut, going to a client on the phone with Sotheby’s Asia specialist Ei-Linn Liew. The result signifies a burgeoning market for Asian modernism in Paris.
A 1991 Gerhard Richter abstract painting sold for £5 million ($6.7 million), going to a client with Patti Wong, senior director of Sotheby’s Asia. Investor Ron Perelman was the seller, according to Art Market Monitor; he bought the work from New York dealer Barbara Annis in 2007. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Justcome Suit (1993) sold for £5.07 million ($6.6 million) to a bidder on the phone with Sotheby’s head of the contemporary art in New York, Grégoire Billault. That painting last sold at auction in 1998 for £128,000 ($213,975).
A 1970 untitled work from Cy Twombly’s ”Blackboard series” sold for $3.3 million (€2.6 million); it had been in the same private collection since its completion in 1970. In its auction debut, surrealist Yves Tanguy’s blue dream-like scene FEU COULEUR NO. 2 (1941), first owned by dealer Pierre Matisse, made $1.6 million (€1.3 million). George Condo’s 2017 painting Women and Men, depicting his signature abstracted figure, made the same price. Henry Taylor’s See Alice Jump (2011), depicting Olympic athlete Alice Coachman, made $680,000 (£523,000), against an of £250,000–£350,000. The result marks Taylor’s third-highest result at auction; it made four times its 2016 auction price of $149,000.
Some market favorites failed to impress. British painter Bridget Riley’s grey Untitled (Diagonal Curve), from 1966; Cecily Brown’s untitled oil on linen from 2015–16; and Yayoi Kusama Dying People (2015) failed to sell. In the modern sale, works by Paul Klee, Max Ernst and Jean-Paul Riopelle were among those which failed to find buyers.