Christie’s Night Breaks Record £137 Million Contemporary Art Sale in Europe

A rare visitor to London auction houses (Ab-Ex works are usually offered in New York), it is cast and splashed enamel and aluminum paint on masonite, Number 21, 1950, squeaked with a phone offer of £8.1m, or £9.3m with fees, a few million pounds shy of his low estimate of £10m. At the modest scale of 22 1/4 by 22 1/4 inches, the work was first exhibited in the artist’s solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1950. Remarkably, of the 32 Pollocks exhibited at the Parsons exhibition, a single, lavender mist (1950), sold – to Alfonso Ossorio, a wealthy artist and close friend of Pollock, according to the catalog entry.
In stark contrast to Pollock’s delightfully wild abstraction, it is generated shimmering and photo-realistic Venedig (Insel) (Venice (island)) from 1985 sold for £3.7m, or £4.3m with costs, barely scratching its low estimate of £4m.
Among the few annoying glitches in the sale, it is terribly macabre composition, Study for “The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute” (2011), depicting Nazi war criminal Doctor Josef Mengele, originally unsold at £380,000, just short of its low estimate of £400,000.

Later in the sale, Christie’s auctioneer and global chairman Jussi Plykkänen re-offered the lot, a first for a Christie’s evening sale, according to the house, and sold it to a telephone bidder. anonymous for £400,000, or £488,750 with bonuses. Christie’s said the end buyer lost phone connection in the first round of bidding and pleaded for it to be offered again.

As for artist records, Mark Bradford’s large-scale, layered multimedia collage on canvas, Bear running away from shotgun (2014), sold to Abigail Asher of New York and Los Angeles-based Guggenheim Asher Associates, Inc., for £3.2 million (£3.8 million including buyer’s premium), beating its high estimate of £2.8million. The underbidder for the 84-by-108-inch artwork was Melanie Clore of Clore Wyndham Fine Art in London.

“We are very excited because this is a collection where the new owner has a strong sense of social justice, just like the artist,” Asher said as she rushed out of the auction room. .

All prices quoted include the hammer price (first) as well as the price including buyer’s premium (BP) charge, which Christie’s calculates at 25% of the hammer price up to and including £175,000, 20% of that part of the hammer price over £175,000 and up to £3 million and 12.5% ​​for anything over that amount.

Contemporary evening action resumes Wednesday at Sotheby’s.

Laura J. Boyer