Revealed: The Biggest Consignors to This Week’s London Auctions, From the Heir to a Chemicals Fortune to Artist Anish Kapoor
The Frieze week sales have a lower combined estimate than previous years. See who is betting on this art market moment.
London’s Frieze week auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips this week are estimated to fetch £124.2 million to £177 million ($169 million to $240.6 million), a roughly 30 percent decrease from the last comparable estimates for Frieze week in 2019.
Much of the decrease can be attributed to Christie’s, which saw its combined evening and day sale estimates for the week drop 43.5 percent from 2019, when it had an additional single-owner sale of the collection of Jeremy Lancaster. For Sotheby’s, which just staged a £60 million ($81.6 million) sale in Hong Kong, London estimates are down by 11.7 percent on 2019; Phillips is down 12.6 percent.
Despite the downsizing, there are still several notable high-wattage lots across the London sales. Below, we reveal some of the secret—and not so secret—consignors to this week’s auctions.
Family of the Late Helga and Walther Lauffs
Sotheby’s catalogue is worth studying to see which artists they think sell better in Europe than Asia. Topping the list are three medium sized squeegee abstracts by Gerhard Richter with a combined estimate of up to £23 million ($31 million) from descendants of the late Helga and Walther Lauffs, who bought them in the 1980s soon after they had been painted.
The family has stayed loyal to Sotheby’s (even though Tobias Meyer and then Cheyenne Westphal have long moved on) since its large-scale sale in 2008, which realized $140 million.
One of the largest consignments to Sotheby’s are 11 works from the collection of the artist Anish Kapoor, with a combined low estimate of £4.2 million ($5.7 million). It is the first time Kapoor has openly consigned works from his reputedly large collection to auction. One thing that is apparent is his very wide range of interest from American minimalism (Dan Flavin) to European post-war conceptualism (Joseph Beuys) and the Japanese Gutai group (Kazuo Shiraga and Shimamoto).
Kapoor could not be reached for comment on the de-acquisitions, but it could be that he is restructuring his collection to have less of an historical bias. It could also be that he is downsizing, having just sold a very large house in London. When asked, Sotheby’s said the proceeds will go towards the Anish Kapoor Foundation.
Not cited in Sotheby’s catalogue is the seller of an exquisite early drawing by Lucian Freud. In February 2012, Christie’s offered this hitherto unknown and unusually large early drawing by Freud of a fishing boat moored on a beach in Ireland with a £200,000 low estimate. It sold for £657,000, the fourth highest price for a Freud drawing at the time to the London specialist works on paper dealer Stephen Ongpin, who subsequently identified the exact spot from which it was drawn.
Many thought Ongpin had bought it for his client, Met trustee, Leon Black. But since the auction, the dealer (who is the owner) has lent the drawing to various museum exhibitions including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, where it was when the pandemic struck. No early Freud drawings of this quality have been on the market in recent years, so it may be that Sotheby’s has a hungry buyer on their book for it as they have guaranteed it with a £750,000 low estimate ($1 million).
Jana and Eduard Pomeranz
Showing good timing is the Pomeranz collection in Vienna. Founded by Jana and Eduard Pomeranz in 2007, the collection boasts 160 works by nearly 100 contemporary artists, but will be trying to reduce that number by four at Sotheby’s. Their best result this week will be likely for Clarivel Left, a 2014 work by Mickalene Thomas bought from Nathalie Obadia in the same year for about $120,000, before the artist’s market really took off.
In May, a Thomas rhinestone studded portrait sold for a record $1.8 million, and she is currently the subject of a worldwide tour by the Levy Gorvy gallery, which was selling her work in the $500,000-plus range at Art Basel. The Pomeranz painting therefore has a chance to shine with a tempting £180,000 to £200,000 estimate ($245,000–$272,000). According to industry sources, the whole Pomeranz collection, including examples by Marina Abramović, Andreas Gursky, Jenny Holzer, Sol Lewitt, and Bruce Nauman, is in line for dispersal, so watch this space.
Christie’s has not divulged the identity of the seller of the top lot in its £46.8 million–£66.2 million ($63.8 million–$90.3 million) sale on Friday—Because it Hurts the Lungs, a 1986 painted wood collage, by Jean-Michel Basquiat estimated at £7 million–£10 million ($9.5 million–$13.6 million). Described as “property of a distinguished collection,” it is thought to belong to the Indonesian collector Haryonto Adikoesoemo, the founder of the Museum MACAN in Jakarta.
Adikoesoemo is the heir to a chemicals fortune and began collecting modern and contemporary Indonesian and Western art in the late 1990s. In 2017 he opened his private Museum, MACAN, largely consisting of works on loan from his own collection. Works by other Western artists include Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol. The Christie’s catalogue records that the Basquiat was acquired by the seller from Enrico Navarra in 2003. In an interview with ARTnews in 2020, Adikoesoemo describes some early acquisitions including a work by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat. “At the time, not many Asian collectors knew who he was, and my family thought I was crazy to buy such ‘ugly’ artworks,” he said. In 2019, Because it Hurts the Lungs was loaned to the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne’s exhibition, “Keith Haring–Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines,” by the Museum MACAN. The painting was last at auction at Phillips New York in 2001, when it sold just below estimate for $1.8 million (£1.3 million) to Hanart in Hong Kong.
Among the top lots is a 2004 eight-foot-wide semi abstraction, How you like it Daddy… by Mark Bradford, guaranteed in house with an estimate of £2.5 to £3.5 million ($3.4 million–$4.7 million). It was bought from Sikkema Jenkins in 2004 by the seller, whom Christie’s does not identify, but who would appear to be Diana Berezdivin who, with her husband Manolo, has an appointment-only space for their collection in Puerto Rico. The painting was exhibited there in 2008 and has not changed hands since.
Not far behind in price is the vertical colour striped Halcyon 2 (1972) by Bridget Riley, guaranteed with a £1.5 million–£2 million estimate ($2 million–$2.7 million). Described as coming from “an important private collection,” knowledgeable sources have identified the owner as the recently deceased Bermuda based British collector Robin Judah who died this summer.
Last May, over 90 and in advanced stages of dementia, Judah sold works by Mondrian, Giacometti and Calder at Christie’s in New York, as I revealed in Art Market Monitor. Judah had a soft spot for Riley and earlier this year sold her Zing 2 (1971), for an above estimate £3.3 million ($4.5 million) at Christie’s London.
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