Powered by a Restituted Franz Marc, Christie’s Inaugural Shanghai to London Sale Brings in a Sterling $334 Million

The five-hour production spanned three sales, two continents, and many, many time zones.

Staff members hold The Foxes(1913) by Franz Marc, during a photo call to present the centrepiece of the 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale taking place on 1st March at Christie's auction house on January 31, 2022 in London, England. Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images.

While much of the world was consumed by news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the spring auction season kicked off in London on Tuesday. Christie’s nearly five-hour marathon evening sale—which stitched together an auction in Shanghai, another in London, and a Surrealism offering as a coda—brought in just over £249 million ($334 million).

It was the auction house’s highest total for an evening event staged out of London and, despite pre-sale jitters over the geopolitical situation, fell within the presale estimate of £208.5 million to £298.8 million ($277.8 million to $398 million). The sell-through rate was 90 percent. Final prices include auction-house fees; presale estimates do not.

The top lot of the evening was Franz Marc’s The Foxes (1913), which was recently restituted from a German museum to the heirs of the Jewish collectors who sold it to escape the Nazis. A phone bidder in London won the work for a record £42.7 million ($57 million), exceeding its estimate of £35 million ($46.8 million) and more than doubling the artist’s previous high-water mark.

Staff members hold Girl with Closed Eyes (1986-7) by Lucian Freud during a photo call to present the highlights from the 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale and The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale taking place on 1st March at Christie's auction house on February 23, 2022 in London, England. Photo credit should read Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images.

Staff members hold Girl with Closed Eyes (1986-7) by Lucian Freud. Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty Images.

Other top lots included Lucian Freud’s Girl With Closed Eyes (1986–87), which fetched £15.2 million ($20.2 million), just grazing past its high estimate. Francis Bacon’s Triptych 1986–7, which Artnet News previously reported was consigned by architect Norman Foster, sold for £38.5 million ($51.3 million), on the low end of its £35 million-to-£55 million estimate.

“It has been a very difficult week…working on this sale with a heavy heart,” Giovanna Bertazzoni, vice-chair of Christie’s 20th/21st century department, told Artnet News after the auction. The traumatic events in Ukraine have brought complex emotions to the team, she said, “but at the same time we are all lucky to have a job and be in a place that is safe.”

All told, 110 works were offered: 20 in Shanghai, 68 in London’s main sale, and 22 in its Surrealist offering. Five lots were withdrawn ahead of the auction. Eighteen works were guaranteed, four of which were backed by the auction house.

Christie's first 20/21 Shanghai to London sale. Courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s first 20/21 Shanghai to London sale. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Despite the challenge and uncertainty, Bertazzoni, who has been instrumental in building Christie’s presence in Shanghai, said the sale successfully integrated the Chinese city into a global “dialogue.” The makeup of the evening—front-loaded in Asia with works by young artists that were nearly fresh from the studio—reflected the market’s current balance of power. Around a third of bidders came from the Asia-Pacific region; 28 percent of buyers were millennials.

The action began in Shanghai at Christie’s new office and gallery space at Bund One on East Zhongshan Road. The slow-paced chapter hosted by auctioneer Caroline Liang, dressed in a red cheongsam, featured a total of 20 lots, primarily by Western artists.

Most of the energy surrounded ultra-contemporary names. The Ghanaian market star Emmanuel Taku’s Ripped (2021) sold for £194,672 ($262,025), more than eight times its estimate, to the Hong Kong salesroom. Colors (2020) by Edgar Plans sold to London for £524,142 ($705,453), more than double the artist’s previous record, according to the Artnet Price Database. Joel Mesler’s Untitled (You Deserve Great Things) (2020), which will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at Shanghai’s Long Museum in July, also more than doubled his previous record, selling for £680,526 ($907,011) to Shanghai.

Amoako Boafo (b. 1984) Orange Shirt. CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD.

One of the most successful flips of the evening was Amoako Boafo’s Orange Shirt (2019), which fetched more than £876,000 ($1.4 million), far exceeding its high estimate of £594,265. The same painting sold for $212,500 at Christie’s less than two years ago.

Christie’s likely took a loss on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Il Duce (1982), which sold for £11.2 million ($15 million) to a phone bidder from the Hong Kong salesroom. The company has held onto the work since 2017, when it carried a guarantee from the house and failed to sell at an estimate of $25 million to $35 million.

A Christie's employee with Jean-Michel Basquiat's Il Duce (1982). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

A Christie’s employee with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Il Duce (1982). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

A handful of Asian names performed solidly. Zao Wou-Ki’s painting Le soir à l’Hôtel du Palais (Palace Hotel by night) (2014) fetched nearly £2.9 million ($3.9 million), selling to a phone bidder with the Hong Kong office. Mandala Reality (2016–18), a painting by emerging Chinese star Huang Yuxing, who achieved a surprising result during Christie’s Hong Kong sale in December, delivered an above-estimate £614,072 ($826,387).

The pace began to pick up when the London chapter began. While bidding from the Shanghai and Hong Kong salesrooms appeared to be less active, Bertazzoni said some of Christie’s London staff were also bidding on behalf of Asian clients.

Certain works saw active bidding from the Shanghai and Hong Kong salesrooms, such as Peter Doig’s Some Houses on Iron Hill (1992), which carried an estimate of £600,000 to £800,000. (It eventually went to New York for £2.4 million/$3.3 million.) A phone bidder with the Shanghai office won Wassily Kandinsky’s Dumpfes Rot (1927) for £2.2 million ($2.9 million).

René Magritte, La lumière du pôle (1926-1927). Courtesy of Christie's.

René Magritte, La lumière du pôle (1926-1927). Courtesy of Christie’s.

In a sign of the new market order, work by Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Marc Chagall, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir came in below or on the lower end of expectations. Meanwhile, work by work by Victor Man, Angel Otero, and Flora Yuknovich sold for multiples of their estimates. The latter’s painting, a twist on Fragonard, fetched £1.9 million ($2.5 million), more than five times its upper expectation.

All 22 works featured in the Surrealist segment sold. René Magritte’s La lumière du pôle (1926–27) sold for £6.2 million ($8 million), within expectations. Pablo Picasso’s La fenêtre ouverte (1929) led the pack, with a final price of £16.3 million ($21.8 million).

But Picasso’s appeal wasn’t universal. Two works by the artist failed to find buyers: Dormeuse (Marie-Thérèse Walter) (1937) featured in the Shanghai sale and Buste d’homme (1969) in London.

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