Chinese Bidding Boosts Christie’s $55 Million Contemporary Evening Sale in London

Paintings from the Saatchi collection also drove sales.

Peter Doig, Cabin Essence (1993-1994). Courtesy Christie's.
Peter Doig, Cabin Essence (1993-1994). Courtesy Christie's.

Christie’s postwar and contemporary art sale turned in a similar result to Sotheby’s the evening before when it totaled £35.6 million ($55 million) against an estimate of £30.7 million to £42.6 million (N.B., sale prices include buyer’s premium, while estimates do not). The estimate, though, was slightly down last October (£40 million to £50 million) indicating that perhaps Christie’s Frieze week target had been reduced.

Certainly there was more of an emphasis on younger generation artists than at Sotheby’s. Peter Doig’s Canadian wooded landscape, Cabin Essence (1993-4), was the top price of the sale by a long way. It had been bought in 1994 for around £10,000 by the American collector who was selling, but his market has skyrocketed to such a degree that it sold for £9.6 million ($14.8 million). Since the estimate had been around £9 million without premium, the result was slightly disappointing. After three very slow bids Christie’s deputy chairman of Asia, Xin Li, won the phone bid on behalf of a Chinese client.

Also selling to China among the top lots was Martin Kippenberger’s multi-part painting, A celebrity in film, radio, television and police call boxes (1981), that sold within estimate for £2.4 million. Kippenberger seems to have become a favorite in China. Last year, Chinese restaurant mogul Zhang Lan snapped up Untitled (1988) for $18.6 million at Christie’s “If I live I’ll see you Tuesday,” sale in New York.

Breaking records were a mix of older and younger generation artists. In the former group was a 1965 pop art painting by the British artist, Gerald Laing, which had come from a Californian collection. The Ben-Day dot painting of a bikini clad girl, Commemoration, was a cross between Roy Lichtenstein, Martial Raysse and Sigmar Polke, and sold for a double estimate £1.2 million to an Italian phone bidder. A swirling 1989 abstract painting by Albert Oehlen attracted strong bidding from Bona Montagu of  Skarstedt Gallery before selling to a phone bidder for a double estimate £1.2 million.

Nicole Eisenman, Beasley Street (2007).Image: Courtesy of Christie's.

Nicole Eisenman, Beasley Street (2007).
Image: Courtesy of Christie’s.

In the latter group were three paintings from the Saatchi collection. A very large village landscape stacked with wooden house fronts and rooftops, Untitled (MV Landscape) by Jonas Wood, was estimated at £250,000 but sold for £542,500—again to Xin Li.

Wood’s latest work was unveiled at Gagosian in London a few days earlier with lower prices than that, but had virtually sold out before the opening. Also from the Saatchi collection was a huge 2004 painting by Toby Ziegler, Designated for Leisure (2004), that tripled estimates to sell for £128,500; and Nicole Eisenman’s Brueghelesque Beasley Street (2007), that sold within estimate for £182,500.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Knave (2011). Image: Courtesy of Christie's.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Knave (2011).
Image: Courtesy of Christie’s.

A record was equalled when Joe Bradley’s seven-and-a-half-foot abstract, Untitled (2011), soared above estimates to sell to dealer Michaela de Pury for £986,500.

But the most dramatic bidding of the sale came with the very first lot, a statuesque six-and-a-half-foot portrait of a fictitious character, Knave, by recent Turner Prize nominee Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, which soared way over its £60,000 estimate, leaving dealer Hugh Gibson and many other bidders trailing in the dust as it sold for an astonishing £446,500.

Jonas Wood, Untitled (M.V. Landscape)(2008).Image: Courtesy of Christie's.

Jonas Wood, Untitled (M.V. Landscape)(2008).
Image: Courtesy of Christie’s.

Despite enormous publicity surrounding the artist, works by Ai Weiwei sold with little competition—a Han dynasty vase inscribed with the Coca-Cola logo was bought by Jens Faurschou, his dealer in Scandinavia, and sold below the estimate for £266,500, including premium.

The biggest loss of the evening was on a Damien Hirst heart-shaped butterfly painting that had been bought in 2011 for £601,250 and now sold for £362,500.

Later in the evening Christie’s staged its Italian art sale which soared to a record £43 million pounds ($67 million), breaking five individual artists’ records in the process. Most remarkable of these were Luciano Fabro’s Italia dell emigrante (1981), a conceptual take on the map of Italy made with strips of copper, that sold to former Christie’s international chairman of postwar and contemporary art Amy Capallazzo for a triple estimate £2.7 million, and Giuseppe Uncini’s Cementarmato (1959), a window like construction made of concrete, that sold to London dealer Fabrizio Moretti for a double estimate £278,500.

More of London’s Italian sales in the next posting.

For more on Frieze Week, see Bizarre Booths at Frieze Masters Are All About Brand-Building for DealersWhat Sold on Day One at Frieze London15 Artists to Watch at Frieze London 2015Helly Nahmad Stages a Mental Asylum with Jean Dubuffet Art Brut Works at Frieze MastersInsider’s Guide to the Best and Worst of London’s Frieze Week 2015 and be sure to make use of artnet News’ 5 Tips for Every Art Fairgoer. Also, see photos from Ken Kagami’s saucy fair intervention, as well as the top booths at Frieze Masters.


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