Results: Sotheby's London Contemporary Evening Sale

Richter Abstraktes Bild (rot) 1991
Sotheby's just finished its Contemporary Art Evening sale and wraps up the major sales of IMP/MOD, post war and contemporary sales of the past two weeks in London.  This sale was another good one, and it looks as if three of the four major sales have done rather well, only Sotheby's IMP/MOD sale was considered disappointment.  It again will be interesting to see how the financial returns of these sales performed when Mei/Moses releases its analysis.

Sotheby's announced the sale totaled $79.67 million (including buyers premium), which topped last years sale by about $8 million.

The sale offered 63 lots with an impressive 57 selling for a very strong 90.5% sell through rate.  The sale also sold 94.6% by value, again, a very strong percentage for the sale.  The $79.67 topped the pre sale estimate total of $54.2-75.5 million.  The top selling lot was Gerhard Richter's 1192 oil canvas Abstraktes Bild selling for $7.63 million.  There were four Richter pieces in the top ten.

For buyers in the top ten, one was listed as a private collector, one as trade, two as anonymous, two as private Asian, and four as private European.

The NY Times reported on the sale

While more modest in scope than the Christie’s sale on Tuesday, the Sotheby’s session was a triumph — the 57 lots that sold added up to £50.68 million, or about $80 million. Its makeup revealed a more marked interest than ever in the figural aspects of contemporary art. Interestingly enough, this was not at the expense of abstractionism, as the performance of Gerhard Richter’s work amply demonstrated.

The first big score greeted the appearance of Mr. Richter’s monumental “Abstract Picture,” with columns of red streaks vibrating across a ground varying from silvery to gray. The canvas, 200 by 140 centimeters, or 783/4 by 55 inches, sold for £4.07 million, within the estimate.

A few minutes later, a figural view of floating icebergs titled “Ice” made £4.3 million. Painted in 1981, it is half the size of the red “Abstract Picture,” which makes the price of “Ice” decidedly more impressive.

Add that a third Richter dated 1989, “Child,” which is strictly abstract despite its title, made £3 million. It is exceptionally beautiful, with its suggestion of water running down a panel and carrying away the debris of a destroyed world. Occasionally, beauty can matter in contemporary art.

If doubts could be entertained at that point about the comeback of the figural aspects of contemporary art, these were dispelled by the competition that broke out over two landscapes by the 91-year-old Zao Wou-Ki. The Chinese painter of the Paris school had a very long spell as an abstractionist. Eventually he returned to landscape painting, largely as a way of asserting his Chinese roots. The fact that he signed a landscape dated Jan. 10, 1991, both in Chinese ideograms and in the Romanized form of his name appears to confirm that.
Source: The NY Times 

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