London Auction Highlights, The First in a Post-Brexit Time
David Hockney, The Splash, signed, titled and dated 1966 on the reverse, acrylic on canvas, 183 cm by 183 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Andy Warhol, Muhammad Ali, 1977, inscribed ‘I certify that this is an original painting by Andy Warhol completed by him in 1978 Frederick Hughes’ (on the overlap); signed by Muhammed Ali (on the reverse), acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 101.6 x 101.6cm. Image Courtesy of Christie’s.
Keith Haring, Untitled, 1981, signed and dated ‘NOV. 1981 K. Haring ⨁’ on the reverse, vinyl paint on vinyl tarpaulin with metal grommets, 245 x 244.8 cm. Image courtesy of Phillips.
This week, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips go head-to-head for London’s first season of contemporary art auctions in a post-Brexit era. Here are the highlights.
TEXT: CoBo Editorial
IMAGES: Courtesy of various
With London’s first post-Brexit contemporary art auctions on the horizon, the question on everyone’s lips is: has Britain shaken off its pre-Brexit and pre-election uncertainty? The difficulty lies, in uncertain times, not in the lack of buyers—prices in the last Autumn sales remained strong—but in convincing collectors to part with their most stellar artworks. Yet despite Brexit hanging over the consignment period, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips in London have nonetheless managed to accumulate a range of works by some of the most engaging Post War and Contemporary artists, including one or two spectacular finds.
Notably, there is an outstanding selection of artworks by women to kick off this season. One to look out for now is Polish sculptor and fibre artist Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930–2017), whose long-awaited retrospective exhibition will open at London’s Tate Modern on 17 June 2020. Christie’s has a signature burlap and resin work, Untitled, from 1976, estimated at £80,000–120,000 (US$104,480–156,720), and Sotheby’s will auction a sisal work titled, Relief avec Deux Collines (Relief with Two Hills), from 1972, estimated at £50,000–70,000 (US$65,040–91,056).
Sotheby’s goes first, on 11 February, with a solid sale populated with quality works by both leading and rediscovered modern and contemporary artists. The house heads up the billing with David Hockney’s iconic The Splash (1966) a sister painting to Tate’s A Bigger Splash. With an estimate of £20,000,000–30,000,000 (US$26,016,000–39,024,000), it is undoubtedly one of the most iconic Pop art images of the 20th century.
Sotheby’s continues its Contemporary Art Evening Sale with a solid selection of works by some of the most radical artists of the 20th century. A masterful early work from Bridget Riley titled, Shift (1963) is estimated at £2,000,000–3,000,000 (US$2,601,600–3,902,400), just after her celebrated retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, London. Painted in the same year, Francis Bacon’s haunting oil on canvas, Turning Figure, goes to sale with an estimate of £6,000,000–8,000,000 (US$7,804,800–10,406,400).
A highlight of the Sotheby’s sale is a rare-to-the-market early work by Portuguese French painter Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, who currently has an exhibition on show at Waddington Custot Gallery, London. L’Incendie II ou le Feu (The Burning II or The Fire), from 1944, was painted when Vieira da Silva lived in exile in Brazil during the Second World War. Incorporating the tumultuous and twisted forms via which she dealt with themes of war and trauma, its estimate is £1,200,000–1,800,000 (US$1,560,960–2,341,440).
Other works to look out for at Sotheby’s are one of Yves Klein’s signature blue anthropometries, Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 132) (1960), estimated at £6,000,000–8,000,000 (US$7,804,800–10,406,400), and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Rubber, a monumentalacrylic, oil stick and collage on canvas from 1985, estimated at £6,000,000–8,000,000 (US$7,804,800–10,406,400).
Hot on Sotheby’s heels, Christie’s Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on Wednesday 12 February will be a Pop-heavy sale, led undoubtedly, by Andy Warhol’s Muhammad Ali, from 1977. Described by The New York Times as “truly iconic,” the acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, estimated at £3,000,000–5,000,000 (US$3,879,000–6,465,000), is signed on the reverse by Ali himself. A further 12 Warhol lots follow, including Flowers (1964) estimated at £1,000,000–1,500,000 (US$1,293,000–1,939,500) and, also from 1964, the iconic Brillo Soap Pads Box, estimated at £300,000–500,000 (US$387,900–646,500), as well as Knives (1982) estimated at £2,500,000–3,500,000 (US$3,232,500–4,525,500).
The Pop Art extravaganza continues with The Mosque, by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Created in Basquiat’s milestone year of 1982, the distinctive acrylic, oil stick, ink and collage is a poetic example of Basquiat’s celebrated “stretcher paintings.” This is the first time the work comes to auction, and it does so with an estimate of £4,000,000–6,000,000 (US$5,172,000–7,758,000). Further Pop artworks, both with a chauvinist twist, include Hunt for the Best, painted by Mel Ramos in 1966, estimated at £300,000–500,000 (US$387,900–646,500), and Tom Wesselmann’s 32 Year Old on the Beach, from 1997, estimated at £600,000–800,000 (US$775,800–1,344,400).
Christie’s grounds this heady mix with some quality modern paintings by French master Jean Dubuffet. La robe à boutons (Button Dress), a heavily textured oil on board from 1961, is the first and largest of five character portraits within Dubuffet’s legendary “Paris Circus” series and is estimated at £1,200,000–1,800,000 (US$1,551,600–2,327,400). It is accompanied by Alentour la maison (Around the House) (1957), for £1,100,000–1,600,000 (US$1,422,300–2,068,800) and Panorama (1978) for £2,000,000–3,000,000 (US$2,586,000–3,879,000).
Sure to attract interest—especially given the good results for Yoshitomo Nara’s work at Christie’s in Hong Kong last year—Dead of Night, is a characteristicacrylic on cotton from 2004. It has an estimate of £2,000,000–3,000,000 (US$2,586,000–3,879,000).
*currency exchange rates stated on Christie’s website as of 10 February 2020 but may be subject to change
Rounding out the London spring auction season, on Thursday 13 February, is Phillips. The house will lead with a seminal Keith Haring painting, Untitled, made from vinyl paint on a vinyl tarpaulin. This larger-than-life artwork was executed at the dawn of Keith Haring’s oeuvre, in 1982, and has an estimate of £3,000,000–4,000,000 (US$ 3,870,465–5,161,560).
It will be accompanied by an extremely aesthetic selection of works, including one of El Anatsui’s stunning and instantly recognisable sculptural pieces. Woven from a myriad of aluminium bottle caps into an immense shimmering curtain, Affirmation, from 2014, is a classic example of El Anatsui’s wall-mounted installations and is estimated at £700,000–900,000 (US$903,109–1,161,351).
Similarly shimmering is Yayoi Kusama’s INFINITY-NETS (KSUZL), from 2017, a very good example from the eponymous series that she began in the late 1950s and continues to the present day. It carries an estimate of £600,000–800,000 (US$774 234–1,032,312).
The biggest lot of the night at Phillips will be a classic piece from American artist Ed Ruscha. God Knows Where, is a square acrylic on canvas painted in 2014, and is estimated at £2,500,000–3,500,000 (US$3,225,975–4,516,365).