Subdued Bidding at Christie’s and De Pury’s Joint Sale of the Lambert Collection
The first of 10 Frieze week auctions in London kicked off today.
The first of 10 Frieze week auctions in London kicked off today with over 300 lots of contemporary art, photography, antique furniture and modern design from the collection of Baroness Lambert from the famous Belgian banking family.
The sale, a joint effort by Simon de Pury and Christie’s, brought in a total of £14.9 million (22.9 million), which was mid-way through the pre-sale estimate of £10.8 to £16.8 million with just 11 percent of lots unsold (sold prices include buyer’s premium, estimates do not).
Whilst he was at Phillips in November 2004, De Pury had conducted a sell-out auction of photography from the Lambert collection (Veronica’s Revenge) which fetched a record $12.5 million for a photography sale. Today’s sale was his first commercial auction since leaving Phillips in 2012.
The sale had originally been announced last summer primarily as an online venture by De Pury’s new company that would be viewed and staged, without a printed catalogue, at Ely House in London, a prime location which is used by art and antiques dealer Mallett and auctioneers Dreweatts & Bloomsbury, which are both owned by Stanley Gibbons.
By late September, however, De Pury had changed tack and made an agreement with Christie’s to stage the auction there, relaying the information on the Christie’s and De Pury websites, though the view remained at Ely House.
For buyers, the main change was that the commission rates rose from the initially discounted 15 percent up to $2 million to Christie’s normal rate of 25 percent up to £50,000, and 20 percent from £50,000 to £1 million. It is thought that Christie’s approached De Pury to hold the sale in association with them.
The hybrid sale was held in Christie’s Great Room and was taken first by Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s global president, and then by De Pury. Most of the bidding was on the phone, and only occasionally in the room from one of the 30 or so people gathered, or on the Internet.
Top lots by Christopher Wool and Mark Bradford were not available for Christie’s live bidders. Internet buyers from Florida or Massachusetts were successful mainly for the lower value lots. One online bidder from Taiwan scooped a bargain when they bought a 2005 painting by Nick Lowe, estimated at £2,000 for just £100. Other lots went for just £10.
Top lot of the six-and-a-half-hour sale was Christopher Wool’s large patterned painting with yellow brushstrokes, Untitled (1995), which sold within estimate for £4.9 million. The same phone bidder snagged a 2009 painting by Mark Bradford with a bid just below the estimate for £902,500.
Another big phone bidder took Wool’s plain-patterned painting, East Broadway Rub Down (1999), for £2.2 million, and Richard Prince’s joke painting, Grassy Knoll (1992), for £422,500, both at hammer prices below the estimates. They met more competition over Cindy Sherman’s unflattering self-portrait, Untitled, (#276) (1993), which made the top price for a photographic work in the sale, doubling the mid estimate at £212,500.
Very few items in the sale had been bought at auction, and the highest rated art works came from the artists’ dealers, Luhring Augustine (Wool), Sikkema Jenkins (Bradford), or Metro Pictures (Sherman). But apart from a few works by Thomas Schutte, Sherman, Gunther Forg and Rudolf Stingel, bidding was fairly subdued. The number of top lots that sold below estimate cannot have generated the sense of confidence that the remaining Frieze week auctions need.
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