Vendors Return

By Gleadell, Colin | Art Monthly, April 2010 | Go to article overview

Vendors Return


Gleadell, Colin, Art Monthly


What a difference a year makes. After the abysmal 42.7111 [pounds sterling] the London salerooms took for contemporary art in February 2009 (see AM325), they bounced back this year with a 124.3m [pounds sterling] series in February. Experts attributed a much healthier level of supply in London to the positive results achieved in New York last November (see AM333), which gave potential vendors the confidence to sell. There was also a marked preponderance of blue-chip postwar European art on offer. Highest selling artists of the week were Yves Klein with nine works selling for 14m [pounds sterling] and Lucio Fontana with 14 works selling for 11m [pounds sterling]--the two artists therefore making up roughly 17.5% of the sales total. The sales were noticeably thin on art boom stars Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Damien Hirst and even Andy Warhol.

Sotheby's opened with 47 lots from the respected Austrian-based collection of Mr and Mrs Gerhard Lenz, centred on the Zero Group of artists formed in Germany in 1957, out of which 19 lots set new records for the artists. These were mainly for artists not ordinarily included in London sales because their market is considered local, within Europe. Leading the record price list was Zero Group founder Gunther Uecker with a characteristic nail relief Hair of the Nymphs, 1964, which sold for 825,250 [pounds sterling] (estimate: 100/150,000 [pounds sterling]). Close behind was Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven, whose papier mache relief Weisses Strukturrelief R62-1, 1962, sold for 780,450[pounds sterling] (150/200,000 [pounds sterling]). Buyers in the room paying record prices for Lenz material were Paris-based adviser Hugues Joffre, Belgian dealer Axel Vervoordt, Paris dealer Mimmo Vedovi, New York trader Jose Mugrabi, and Milan-based adviser and curator Elena Geuna. The effect was felt in March at the Maastricht art fair where works by Uecker, Heinz Macke and Schoonhoven were seen in abundance and at prices more than double those of last year.

After the Lenz sale things did not go quite so swimmingly. Five small works by Lucian Freud were offered from the collection of bookmaker Victor Chandler, but realised just 4m [pounds sterling] against an overall estimate of 4.8/6.5m [pounds sterling]. The main lot, Freud's small Self Portrait (with a bruised eye), c1978, sold for 2.8m [pounds sterling] (3/4m [pounds sterling]) to Geuna. Upstaging the Freuds was an early 1956 portrait drawing of Leon Kossoff by his fellow 'School of London' artist Frank Auerbach. The date and the subject matter excited several bidders, as first Pilar Ordovas (Gagosian) and then Holland Hibbert took the price way over the 60/80,000 [pounds sterling] estimate before London dealer Offer Waterman, on his cell phone, fought off several phone bidders to buy it for 890,000 [pounds sterling]--the most unexpected price of the sale. For the other major British art lots, the sale fast-forwarded to the 1990s and to Peter Doig's large ski painting Saint Anton (Flat Light), 199596, which carried a strong 2/3m [pounds sterling] estimate. It sold without much competition to a phone buyer for 2.8m [pounds sterling] and will have netted a good profit for the seller, who bought it on the primary market for around 12,000 [pounds sterling]. Similarly, Doig's smaller Bob's House, 1994, which was bought in New York in 1999 for $36,000 by French collector Marcel Brient, now sold for 993,250 [pounds sterling]. Also picking up in the secondary market is Chris Ofili; his Through the Grapevine, 1998, which had been acquired by a US collector on the primary market in 1999 for under 20,000 [pounds sterling], sold for a record 802,850 [pounds sterling] (250/350,000 [pounds sterling]).

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Taking the top lot slot for the US was a late Willem de Kooning, Untitled XIV, 1983, which was bought by a European collector for 3.9m [pounds sterling] (2/3m [pounds sterling]). Otherwise, the only US art of note was Warhol's reversed image Jackie, 1964, which sold to a Swiss collector for 1. …

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