In a few hours, 2013’s acclaimed Post-War & Contemporary auction season in London will commence. Kicking off the year with a booming 56 lot sale will be Sotheby’s. Along with its dynamite competitor Christie’s, the auction houses usually flip a coin to see who goes first, and then Phillip’s follows. Tonight’s evening auction will set the bar for Christie’s tomorrow. It’s an adrenaline rush.
I arrived promptly this morning at 9 am to see the preview at Sotheby’s before paddles go up tonight and the works disappear for a few or many years, as there are several notably “once in a life time” pieces. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you about them soon enough.
Based on a brief but juicy tour by the director of Contemporary Day Sale, Olivia Thornton, (I love her, she can sell snow to an Eskimo) these are some of the lots that you should look out for tonight.
Lots 1,2 & 3 are strategically placed Calders with very low estimates of £150,000 – £250,000. However, apparently this is all part of a master plan. For these three “domestically sized” stabiles, it is the first time that they will enter the market in 60 years as they were acquired by a Swedish collector in the 50’s and there they remained. Since Calder’s market is so buoyant at the moment, these three works are meant to start the auction with a ‘high’ in terms of quality in order to create confidence in the room so that it carries over the auction. A positive atmosphere is essential to establish a certain rhythm throughout the sale.
The cover of the evening auction’s catalogue is Francis Bacon’s self-portrait triptych from 1980. This is a real eyebrow lifter not just because it’s a Bacon, but because this specific type of work (self-portrait triptych) is rare. He only did eleven; this one is one of the last three he completed before he died in 1992. In the 80s Bacon was very lonely. He was already in his mid 70’s and many of his close friends had died. George Dyer, Bacon’s long time lover had committed suicide in 1971 and so his loneliness is somehow visible. Estimated at £10 million to £15 million, this goes to show how Bacon’s market has tripled in the last decade as this specific work was bought at auction eight years ago for around £3 million. Besides the rarity of this triptych, some of the soft smudges imprinted with the artist’s sweater are still visible on the three faces as foggy patches of color.
This large, very large, work by Ghanaian artist, El Anatsui, is something to look out for because of what it represents: Africa. Although the African continent as a ‘region’ is not one that generates much art activity in terms of market, Africa has a BRICS emerging national economy (South Africa) that is turning the tables. Anatsui’s work is not new to auction but it is not common either even though he is quickly becoming a house hold name. Additionally, the British Museum has a sculpture entitled Monument carved out of wood, and the Tate recently put together an African acquisitions board which means that Africa is a place to keep in mind – art wise. As soon as institutions start paying attention to a certain area, the market tends to wake up and slowly shift. This, dear reader, is the trickle effect.
Believe it or not, this is a Richter! I hope you’re surprised because I was when I saw it. Although the market has favoured his Abstract years, this 1976 Wolke is a one of a kind as it is the only one in the 2m x 4 meters format. Through its treatment of light and its monumentality, the canvas draws you in – when you’re standing in front of it at least. Estimated at £7 million to £9 million, I can’t wait to see what will become of this.
I’m not a Damien Hirst lover, no surprise there, but this butterfly grid is amazing. Moreover, it’s the first one of its kind ever made, entitled It’s a Wonderful World. Its massive size and the rhombus manner in which it is deliberately hung screams wall power. Estimated at £500,000 to £700,000, this work predates the butterfly gothic frames that resembled stained-glass windows that were displayed last year at Hirst’s Tate Modern retrospective.
This Fontana speaks for itself, trust me. It’s vibrant. The artist slashed his first canvas in 1958 and died in 1968 which means that there is not an excessive amount of tagli works, much less red and white ones (considered the best). This specific one, estimated at £2.2 million to £2.8 million, only measures 118 cm x 91 cm, a measurement that might be considered medium for many artists but in Fontana’s case it’s big. There are less than ten works in this format and even less than that in white. Very cool, I know.
PS. You can watch the sale online via the Sotheby’s website.
Written by Andrea Wild Botero. All rights reserved.