Business & Economy

Richter’s ‘Wall’ pushes Sotheby's auction to £88 mln

13 February, 2014

Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction on Wednesday totalled £88 mln ($144.6 mln) with Gerhard Richter’s cherished work ‘Wall’ selling for £17.4 mln ($28.7 mln).

According to Sotheby’s, a new auction record was also set for a painting by Cy Twombly as the fresh-to-market works attracted record levels of participation.
The top lot of the sale was Gerhard Richter’s monumental Wand (Wall) (1994) which sold for £17.4 mln, up from an initial estimate of £15 mln. This is the third highest price for any painting by the artist, and the second highest price for one of his abstract works.
The painting, never before seen at auction, was held by Richter to be a work of such importance that he chose to keep it in his personal collection for over 15 years, singling it out as a keynote work for many important museum exhibitions.
Two-thirds of the works offered at Wednesday night’s sale had never been seen at auction, including Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Rome), Alberto Burri’s Rosso Plastica, Lucian Freud’s Head on a Green Sofa and Frank Auerbach’s Morning – Mornington Place.
Global participation was evident throughout the sale process, with works consigned from 14 countries and participants from 40 countries – among the highest levels of participation seen in the category at Sotheby’s London.
This was the twelfth consecutive Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s worldwide with a sell-through rate of over 80%. In all, 91.5% of sold lots achieved prices at or above their pre-sale estimates.
A new auction record was set for a painting by Cy Twombly when Untitled (Rome) from 1964 sold significantly above estimate to a round of applause for £12.2 mln ($20 mln), from an estimate of £5-7 mln.
That is the second highest price ever paid for any work by the artist after his Poems to the Sea, which had set a new benchmark in New York in November ($21.7 mln).
Never before offered at auction, this painting was acquired by the consignor in the 1970s.
Andy Warhol’s red canvas Mao (1973) was sought after by three bidders before selling for £7.6 mln ($12.5 mln) from an estimate of £5.5-7.5 mln – almost 20 times the sum it sold for when last at auction (at Sotheby’s London June 2000 £421,500).
Considered by Lucian Freud to be among the best works he ever produced and painted at a pivotal moment in his career, Head on a Green Sofa (1960-61) sold for £2.9 mln ($4.9 mln), slightly up from the estimate of £2.5-3.5 mln.
Demonstrating the enduring appeal for London School works, a rediscovered masterpiece by Frank Auerbach (1971-72) appearing at auction for the first time Morning – Mornington Place fetched £1.8 mln ($2.9 mln) more than double its top estimate m of £600,000-800,000.
In addition to the Richter, other German works brought strong prices: Sigmar Polke’s Rokoko from 1994 exceeded expectations selling for £2,546,500 ($4,186,955) from an estimate of £1-1.5mln, Martin Kippenberger’s Egg Woman brought £1,818,500 ($2,989,978) from estimate of £1.2-1.8 mln) and Thomas Struth’s Self-Portrait surpassed the high estimate of £300,000-400,000 to bring £482,500 ($793,326).