Georg Baselitz Stands to Set New Auction Record at Sotheby’s London

Expect a big night for German artists.

Georg Baselitz, Mit Roter Fahne (With Red Flag), 1965. Courtesy of Sotheby's.
Georg Baselitz, Mit Roter Fahne (With Red Flag), 1965. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s London is predicting a record-breaking sale for German painter Georg Baselitz at its upcoming contemporary art evening auction in London (March 8, 2017). Mit Roter Fahne (With Red Flag), 1965, from the artist’s “Heroes” series, carries a pre-sale estimate of £6.5–8.5 million ($8.1–10.65 million).

According to the artnet Price Database, it’s a record that has stood since November 2014, when Der Brückechor (The Brücke Chorus), 1983, sold for $7.45 million at Christie’s New York. Sotheby’s calls Mit Roter Fahne “a painting that cemented the artist’s reputation as one of the most provocative and compelling voices of the post-war era.” (It’s worth noting, however, that despite Baselitz’s demeaning comments about the abilities of women artists, a number of his female counterparts have outsold him.)

Even if the work falls short of that benchmark, it still stands to be a banner night for Baselitz and his countrymen, as 17 works, just over a quarter of the entire sale, are by German artists, with major works on offer by Gerhard RichterAnselm KieferSigmar PolkeMartin KippenbergerWolfgang TillmansAlbert OehlenThomas SchütteGünther FörgGünther Uecker, and Michael Krebber.

Georg Baselitz, <em>Mit Roter Fahne (With Red Flag)</em>, 1965. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Georg Baselitz, Mit Roter Fahne (With Red Flag), 1965. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s has had a 31 percent increase in the number of bidders on German contemporary art over the past five years. German artists made up 20 percent of lots at the house’s 2016 evening contemporary sales, and 43.3 percent of the overall sales total at the October Frieze Week auctions with just nine works.

“Seismic moments of social and political change in history have always created seismic changes in art, something we undoubtedly see in post-war Germany,” said Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art, Europe, in a statement. “Many of these artists tackled challenging, some might say profound, subject matter, while at the same time creating new visual languages which redefined European art history.”

Gerhardt Richter, <em>Eisberg</em> (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Gerhardt Richter, Eisberg (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Keep an eye on Richter’s Eisberg, a photorealistic landscape painting of an iceberg adrift in the sea, made in 1982, shortly after his divorce from his first wife after 25 years of marriage. Depicting a scene the artist photographed during a 1972 trip to Greenland, the painting is understood as a reflection of the turmoil in Richter’s personal life at the time.

With an estimate of £8–12 million ($10–15 million), however, the canvas probably won’t begin to approach the artist’s auction record.

The top-selling living European artist at auction, Richter has had no less than 32 works exceed the $15 million mark on the block. His personal record came in 2015 at Sotheby’s in London with the £30.4 million ($46.3 million) sale of Abstraktes Bild.

German artists who have set new auction records over the last two years include Baselitz, Richter, Tillmans, Polke, Uecker, Krebber, Förg, Schütte, Kippenberger, and Oehlen.

“There is an unprecedented interest being shown in German contemporary art,” Sotheby’s spokesman told the Guardian. “To have such a representation from one country is remarkable given today’s globalized art world.”


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