Magazine article Art Monthly

Roller Coaster Ride

Magazine article Art Monthly

Roller Coaster Ride

Article excerpt

Sotheby's and Christie's are both anticipating their best London sales ever this month. Judging by the events of last autumn, the roller coaster should keep rolling on, but there were a few warning signs here and there.

The Frieze Art Fair has now turned October into a serious money-making operation for the salerooms. In less than a week, they ran up sales of 84m [pounds sterling].

At Sotheby's sale for the Whitechapel Art Gallery, Peter Doig's first snow painting, Charley's Space, 1991, came out on top selling for 820,000 [pounds sterling]. The anonymous buyer bid over the telephone against former Tate curator Gregor Muir, now working with Hauser & Wirth, in the room. Occasionally dealers stepped in to buy artists they represent. Ben Brown bought Tony Bevan's 2006 painting, Table Top, for 30,000 [pounds sterling], and Modern Art's Stuart Shave bought Eva Rothschild's 2006 sculpture, Supersoft, for a double estimate 11,000 [pounds sterling]. More established artists saw dealers who might like to represent them buying their work. Matthew Carey-Williams of Haunch of Venison bought Tony Cragg's wood sculpture, Finnish Totem, 2006, for a record 90,000 [pounds sterling] as well as a new painting by Albert Oehlen for a double estimate 150,000 [pounds sterling].

Private collectors were out in force. Former Whitechapel chairman Keir McGuinness bought Gary Webb's mirrored screen, Little Split, 2006, for a triple estimate 18,000 [pounds sterling] (Webb's first show in New York sold out shortly afterwards with prices of up to 50,000 [pounds sterling] for larger screens). Muriel Salem bought a digital print by Rosemary Trockel for 30,000 [pounds sterling]. John Huntingford bid over estimate to claim a Richard Deacon wood sculpture for 24,000 [pounds sterling]. Dominic Palfreyman bough a LightJet print by the Atlas Group for 9,500 [pounds sterling], and Damien Hirst's business manager Frank Dunphy let loose with several bids claiming a new Michael Craig-Martin for 20,000 [pounds sterling], a Sophie Calle photograph for 6,500 [pounds sterling], and a painting by Louise Brierley, estimated at 500 [pounds sterling], for 11,000 [pounds sterling], though none, said Dunphy, were for Hirst.

Sotheby's main sale was dominated by late Warhols, but the market for the Leipzig painters, which took off last October, seems to have reached its peak. Paintings by Eberhard Havekost, Neo Rauch, Dirk Skreber and Matthias Weischer all failed to sell with over-optimistic estimates. Charles Saatchi's German investments, however, were paying off: Peon, 1986-96, by Oehlen, sold above estimate for 243,200 [pounds sterling] and Martin Kippenberger's dark latex work, Untitled, 1991, sold within estimate for 204,000 [pounds sterling].

The scene then shifted to Phillips de Pury & Co which was launching its new London saleroom in Victoria. Top price was a record 568,000 [pounds sterling] for a rare complete edition of Piotr Uklanski's The Nazis, 1998, given by dealer Jeffery Deitch bidding against Larry Gagosian. This was followed by a record 478,400 [pounds sterling] given by a phone bidder against an agent for Charles Saatchi in the room for Chinese artist Fang Lijun's painting 2002.

To boost the impact of the sale, Phillips had guaranteed 17 lots. Some, like the record-breaking 377,600 [pounds sterling] video Eternal Return, by Bill Viola, had come from the collection of New York hedge fund manager Adam Sender. Others had come from German collector Harald Falkenberg. Among the top prices were Richard Prince's So What Else is New, 1989, sold to London dealer Nicolai Frahm for 433,600 [pounds sterling] and Mike Kelley's The Sun Collapse ..., 1998, sold to German publisher Benedikt Taschen for 254,400 [pounds sterling]. Other buyers in the room were London collectors Fatima and Eskandar Mileki who bought Tim Noble & Sue Webster's $, 2001, for 187,200 [pounds sterling] and Miami collectors Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz who bought Kippenberger's latex painting M. …

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