Hot Lots: 5 Works That Sailed Past Expectations During London’s Fall Auctions

We look at the lots that overperformed last week and consider what it tells us about the state of the market.

Elizabeth Peyton's Mark (Smoking) (1996) ahead of the Christie's auction. Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Amid uneven results and some mixed signals at the recent round of Frieze London timed-contemporary auctions, Artnet News took a closer look at the day sales, which typically offer an interesting mix of new work by emerging up-and-comers alongside the mid-market work of more established names.

In combing through the catalogues, we saw some of the same patterns reflected that occurred at the  evening sales, notably the strength of some ultra-contemporary works that Sotheby’s saw with its sale titled The Now, which pulled in an above-estimate £15.5 million ($19 million), exceeding the £13.6 million high estimate. And Phillips, which has been a leader in auctioning ultra-contemporary names for more than a decade, debuted three new artists (see below) and notched new records for four more against the backdrop of a top ten that ticked off more familiar names ranging from Georg Baselitz and Barry Flanagan to Louise Bourgeois and Laura Owens.

Read on for highlights of the lots that took flight. (All prices include auction house fees.)

 

 

Alfie Caine (b. 1996) 

Midday Sun (2020) 

Alfie Caine, Midday Sun (2020). Image courtesy Phillips.

Alfie Caine, Midday Sun (2020). Image courtesy of Phillips.

 

Auction: Phillips London, 20th Century Contemporary Art Day Sale, October 12

Estimate: £12,000 to £18,000 

Sold for: £88,900 ($108,000)

It’s hard not to think of David Hockney when looking at Alfie Caine’s bright, near glowing painting, and that’s a good thing. Caine, who studied architecture at Cambridge and now lives in Rye, East Sussex, often takes inspiration from the surrounding landscape. He skilfully blends the real with the fantastical as he “treads the line between real and imagined,” as Phillips describes Midday Sun (2020), all with meticulous draftsmanship.

The painting and collage on canvas shot past its high estimate of £18,000 to sell for £88,900 ($108,000) and was presumably a quite profitable flip for the consignor who acquired it directly from the artist in 2020. The artist made his auction debut at the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Auction, hosted by Phillips, in January this year.

Klára Hosnedlová (b. 1990) 

Untitled (From Ponytail Parlour) (2018) 

Auction: Phillips London, 20th Century Contemporary Art Day Sale, October 12

Estimate: £8,000 to £12,000 

Sold for: £43,180 ($52,600)

Hosnedlová, who was born in the Czech Republic and lives and works in Berlin, is known for her elaborate multidisciplinary installations that incorporate architecture, fashion, sculpture, performance, and embroidery. Untitled (from Ponytail Parlour) was part of a site-specific presentation at the National Theatre of Prague in 2018. In this work she “expertly conjures the opposing textures of patterned textile, shimmering hair and skin,” according to Phillips. Further, the close cropping of the picture plane and the notably pointy fingernails challenge preconceived notions of gentility that have long been associated with womanhood and needlework.

Hosnedlová is creating work for an exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in early 2024, and a debut solo show with her representing gallery, White Cube, scheduled for London in 2025. This marks the first time a work by the artist has appeared at auction.

 

Mohammed Sami (b.1984) 

Family Issues II (2020) 

 

Mohammed Sami, Family Issues II (2020). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Mohammed Sami, Family Issues II (2020). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Auction: Sotheby’s London Contemporary Day Auction, October 13

Estimate: £30,000 to £40,000 

Sold for: £190,500 ($232,000)

Artnet News writer Colin Gleadell was spot-on when he referred to Iraqi artist Mohammed Sami as “red-hot” at recent London sales. Sami, whose intriguing paintings of quotidian settings and domestic interiors, typically devoid of people and intended to serve as an exploration of memory was the toast of both day and evening sales. Sami’s Family Issues II sold for a premium-exclusive £190,500 ($231,300), blasting past the estimate of £30,000 to £40,000.

Sami only recently made his auction debut, this past March, when one of his works achieved £355,600 ($431,780) at Sotheby’s. Meanwhile at Sotheby’s evening sale, Poor Folk 1 (2019), had likewise been bought from the Patrick Heide Gallery in London for around £15,000. Estimated at £50,000 to £80,000, it sold for £558,500 ($686,570), which is now the artist’s record price. Sami is represented by Luhring Augustine in New York and Modern Art in London.

Miriam Cahn (b. 1949) 

Angebot (1998) 

Miriam Cahn, Angebot (1998). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Miriam Cahn, Angebot (1998). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Auction: Sotheby’s London Contemporary Day Auction, October 13

Estimate: £25,000 to £35,000

Sold for: £203,200 ($248,000) 

As Artnet News pointed out in a profile last year, it may seem to some fans and viewers that Miriam Cahn only recently burst on to the contemporary art scene in recent years, but the 73-year old Swiss artist has been at it for decades, and has been considered one of Europe’s most important artists for years. As a feminist and an activist artist she is known for her portraits including erotic depictions of women in which the figures stare back unapologetically at the viewer.

Experts say prices for Cahn’s work have increased, with medium-sized works now costing from $50,000 to $105,000, or over $1 million for larger installations, which occur as clusters of paintings. Angebot, which depicts a partially nude woman whose head and face is obscured by a burka-like covering, except for her eyes which fix the viewer with an intense stare, incited fierce composition. It soared over its £35,000 high estimate to reach a price roughly five times that amount. Watch Cahn discuss the role of the female artist in this video interview.

Elizabeth Peyton (b. 1965) 

Mark (Smoking) (1996) 

Elizabeth Peyton, Mark (Smoking) (1996). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Elizabeth Peyton, Mark (Smoking) (1996). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

Auction: Christie’s, Post-war and Contemporary Art Day Sale

Estimate: £50,000 to £70,000

Sold for: £298,000 ($362,000)

The American painter, best known for her lush portraits of celebrities, musicians, and historical figures, is having an exciting month. Peyton is one of two artists who has been granted a new long-term residency for contemporary artists at the Louvre, the museum recently announced. The expansive program called “Les Hôtes du Louvre” (the Hosts of the Louvre), provides Peyton and Kader Attia, a French artist of Algerian heritage, studios inside the museum from December 2023 to June 2025.

Earlier this year, Peyton’s first art fair showing with David Zwirner gallery turned heads at Art Basel Hong Kong. Zwirner’s booth was adorned with Peyton’s portrait of the gallery’s heir apparent, Lucas Zwirner, which is also the title of the work. The display may have been a cheeky response to rumors that the painter—who has held solo exhibitions at New York’s New Museum, UCCA Beijing, and, most recently, London’s National Portrait Gallery—and the scion were a romantic item.


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