$19.5 million Bacon Portrait of Lucian Freud leads Christie’s July 2014 Contemporary Art sale in London
UPDATE: A solid sale that brought in £99,413,500 with 12 of 75 lots unsold and none withdrawn. In a packed salesroom, the auction got off to a brisk start with a Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still, #25 leapt past it’s £150,000 high estimate to hammer at £200,000 ($£242,500 with fees or $412,997). Lot 3, Yves Klein’s Relief planétaire (RP 9) surpassed its £700,000 high estimate hitting £780,000 (£938,500 with fees or $1,598,265), immediately followed by Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Amanti (Lovers) from 1962-66, which hammered at £2 million (£2,322,500 with fees or $3,955,217) against an estimate of £1-1.5 million. Several more works by Italian artists all sold including Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spaziale, Attese (a white canvas with ten vertical slashes), hammered at £5.3 million (£6,018,500 with fees or $10,249,505), against a £4-6 million estimate to the same bidder who purchased lot 2, a small Jean Dubuffet, Paysage (Landscape), featuring butterfly wings on board.
Lot 11, Roy Lichtenstein’s three-foot diameter Mirror #8, saw a sustained bidding war, hammering at £1.7 million (£1,986,500 with fees or $3,383,009), £1 million over it’s £700,000 high estimate. Peter Doig’s Gasthof (Lot 14), from 2002-2004, ably made a hammer price of £8.8 million (£9,938,500 with fees or $16,925,265), against a £5million high estimate – and establishing a new auction record for the artist.
Lot 16, the Francis Bacon Study for Head of Lucian Freud opened at £5 million climbed at £500,000 increments to £9 million, then moved at smaller intervals to a hammer price of £10.2 million (£11,506,500 with fees or $19,595,568). Next up, Frank Auerbach’s Primrose Hill, Autumn was the first of two buy-ins before Tracey Emin’s My Bed, which opened at £650,00, hammered at a record £2.2 million (£2,546,500 with fees or $4,336,689), a clean £1 million over its £1.2 million high estimate – to boisterous applause.
Lot 29, Andy Warhol’s Self -Portrait (Fright Wig), opened at £4 million and hammered at £5.6 million (£6,354,500 with fees or $10,821,713), below its £6 million low estimate. The Christopher Wool’s Untitled (HA AH), opened at opened at £4 million and hammered at it low estimate of £5.5 million (£6,242,500 with fees of $10,630,977).
David Ostrowski’s F (Dann lieber nein), for which there were ten telephone bidders, zipped for its £20,000 opening bid to hammer for £85,000 (£104,500 with fees or $177,963) to a telephone bidder. The buyer of the Doig picked up lot 39, Urs Fischer’s Vain Whining for a hammer price of Frühstück now (Self-Portrait)350,000 (£422,500 with fees or $719,517), above the £300,000 high estimate. The three Albert Oehlens all performed well: lot 44, Frühstück now (Self-Portrait) hammered for £900,000 (£1,082,500 with fees or $1,843,497) over a high estimate of £400,000; lot 45, Ohne Titel (Untitled) sold for £500,000 (£602,500 with fees or $1,026,057), exceeding the £280,000 high estimate; and lot 46, Ohne Titel (Untitled) made £400,000 (£482,500 with fees or $821,697), past the £350,000 high estimate. The quartet of Richter panels, Abstrakte Bilder, opened at £2 million and was bought in at £2.8 million.
The last major battle of the evening was for Roy Lichtenstein’s Purist Painting with Bottles from 1975, estimated at £2-3 million, it hammered for £3.3 million (£3,778,500 with fees or $6,434,785). One bidder in the room picked up two works by Andy Warhol, lot 71, Race Riot for £600,000 (£722,500 with fees or $1,230,417), surpassing the £450,000 high estimate), followed by lot 72, Ambulance Disaster for a hammer price of £480,000 (£578,500 with fees or $985,185), over the £450,000 high estimate. The auctioneer signed off by wishing “good luck to America” in the World Cup starting in a matter of moments.
ORIGINAL POST: The top lot by estimate in Christie’s Evening Sale of Contemporary Art in London on July 1, 2014, is Francis Bacon’s study of a portrait of Lucien Freud – but the top lot by interest or buzz factor is Travey Emin’s My Bed of 1988 being sold from the Saatchi collection. There’s also the requisite Richters, Warhols, Fontanas, Basquiats and three early paintings by Albert Oehlen.
The lot notes for the Emin include this wonderful quote from the artist that provides considerable insight:
‘I had a kind of mini nervous breakdown in my very small flat and didn’t get out of bed for four days. And when I did finally get out of bed, I was so thirsty I made my way to the kitchen crawling along the floor. My flat was in a real mess- everything everywhere, dirty washing, filthy cabinets, the bathroom really dirty, everything in a really bad state. I crawled across the floor, pulled myself up on the sink to get some water, and made my way back to my bedroom, and as I did I looked at my bedroom and thought, ‘Oh, my God. What if I’d died and they found me here?’ And then I thought, ‘What if here wasn’t here? What if I took out this bed-with all its detritus, with all the bottles, the shitty sheets, the vomit stains, the used condoms, the dirty underwear, the old newspapers- what if I took all of that out of this bedroom and placed it into a white space? How would it look then?’ And at that moment I saw it, and it looked fucking brilliant. And I thought, this wouldn’t be the worst place for me to die; this is a beautiful place that’s kept me alive. And then I took everything out of my bedroom and made it into an installation. And when I put it into the white space, for some people it became quite shocking. But I just thought it looked like a damsel in distress, like a woman fainting or something, needing to be helped.’ (T. Emin, quoted in ‘Tracey Emin Interview: Julian Schnabel’, http://www.lehmannmaupin.com/artists/traceyemin/press/376, [accessed 14 May 2014])
From the lot notes:
Having spent its entire life in the collection of Roald Dahl and subsequently in the collection of his estate, Study for Head of Lucian Freud, 1967 is one of only two single portrait heads that Francis Bacon executed of his friend and sometime rival, the chronicler of the human condition, Lucian Freud. The essence of Freud emerges from a sumptuously thick and complex surface comprised of lustrous undulations of crisp white titanium mixed with sweeps of emerald, all set against a velvety black void. His features appear and dissolve in the alternating sweeps of gestured paint, with flecks of vermilion articulating Freud’s existence all the more acutely. Darkly haloed by a thin trail of emerald tracing the outline of Freud’s crown, there is more than representation on display here – this is the individual presented as their very essence. It is this very quality that made Study for Head of Lucian Freud so compelling to Dahl, who was to acquire it in the same year as its execution.
This is a late work by the artist, completed one year before his death. It carries a third party guarantee, so it will sell.
This work also carries a third party guarantee. From the sale catalogue:
With its giant letters stacked and boldly writ, Untitled collides and confuses the senses with its confrontational urban poetry. Both nihilistic and witty in its tone, the colossal ‘HA AH’ gridded out over two rows extending nearly three metres high is at once the punch line of a joke and a questioning conversation, palindromic word-play and onomatopoeic reflex. Executed in 1990, it is perhaps no coincidence that its ambitious verbiage, ‘HA AH’ rhymes with ‘Dada’, since it is a work whose confident and bold execution, with its thick dripping black letters, overrides the apparent questioning sensitivity of its statement. But more than just a play on words, ‘HA AH’ captures the anti-rational aspects of Dada – its title embodying the multilingual, childish, and nonsensical connotations celebrated in the movement. Untitled was conceived at the end of a decade where painting’s right to exist had been deeply questioned by Douglas Crimp’s essay ‘The Death of Painting’ in 1981.
From the catalogue:
Towering over the viewer, Abstrakte Bilder is a rare four panel painting from the height of Gerhard Richter’s abstract practice. Executed in 1992, the work was featured as the centrepiece of Richter’s landmark installation at Documenta IX in Kassel of the same year and was later exhibited at his comprehensive travelling retrospective held first at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris in 1993 and Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn in 1994, which gave birth to Richter’s then most significant catalogue raisonné publication. With its opulent visual surface, Abstrakte Bilder hails from the finest period in Richter’s abstraction, as the paintings created between 1989 and 1994 represent the purest articulation of the artist’s improvised technique. Indeed the early 1990s was a time of great professional recognition for Richter, his breakthrough exhibition at Tate Gallery, London, took place in 1991 and Documenta IX was the first major presentation of his work in Germany since the showing of 18 October 1977 in Krefeld in 1989.