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Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction brings $122.8 million
Sale total: £93,205,800 / $122,835,924 / €107,932,591 well within the pre-sale estimate of £75.5 -104.5 million / $99.5-137.8 million / €87.4-121 million. Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- In its auction debut, Lucian Freud’s exquisite Head of a Boy (1956) sold for £5.8 million / $7.6 million / €6.7 million (est. £4.5-6.5 million), or £118,000 per square inch (49 square inches). Executed when Freud was just 34 years of age, works from the 1950s are incredibly rare to come to auction – only 10 examples ever having appeared at auction previously. Head of a Boy achieved the highest price for a work by the artist from the 1950s. The painting is fresh to the market, having remained in the collection of the Irish cultural patron, the Hon. Garech Browne since its execution.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s encyclopaedic Apex (1986), sold for £8.2 million / $10.8 million / €9.5 million (est. £5,000,000-7,000,000) - last sold at auction in 1988 for £16,500 / $28,190 (est. £12,000-18,000). Three further works on paper by the artist exceeded their high estimates and achieved a combined total of £2.9 million / $3.8 million / €3.3 million.

A further highlight was Jenny Saville's towering three-metre Juncture (1994), which achieved £5.7 million / $7.5 million / €6.6 million (est. £5,000,000-7,000,000), more than a 1000% increase on the £457,250 the painting achieved in its last appearance at auction in 2009. Saville’s record has been broken three times in the last two years, each time at Sotheby’s, and each time for a work produced within the critical five-year period (1992-1997) in which Saville produced a legendary series of monumental paintings.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Vicki! I—I Thought I Heard your Voice from 1964, a quintessential evocation of the artist’s celebrated Pop vernacular, achieved £5.8 million / $7.7 million / €6.8 million (est. £5,000,000-7,000,000). Born from Lichtenstein’s acclaimed body of Girls paintings, other works from this series are held in museums worldwide from Tate in London to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Gerhard Richter’s dazzling squeegee painting Abstraktes Bold (2009), sold for £6.9 million / $9.2 million / €8 million (£6-8 million). This work belongs to the very same series that Richter was filmed working on in Corinna Belz’s 2011 documentary, Gerhard Richter: Painting.


Altogether 13 works by female artists were offered in tonight’s sale, with over half exceeding their pre-sale high estimate.

Four bidders competed for Rebecca Warren’s Fascia III (2010), which set an auction record for the artist, achieving £555,000 / $731,434 / €642,692 (est. £250,000-350,000) in tonight’s sale. The present work embodies the Turner Prize-nominee’s radical fusion of traditional aesthetics with symbols of contemporary culture and feminist politics. An example of Fascia III was also exhibited at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011.

After seeing competition from four bidders, Agnes Martin’s Untitled #9 (1994) exceeded its high estimate to realise £2.8 million / $3.7 million / €3.2 million (est. £1.8-2.2 million). The work has remained in the same collection for almost 25 years, and was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2000.

Bridget Riley’s Midi from 1983 sold with flying colours for £1.8 million / $2.4 million / €2.1 million (est. £1.2-1.8 million) in tonight’s sale. With works by Riley only rarely coming to auction, the painting sparked a bidding battle between four bidders. The sale of Midi precedes a major retrospective of the artist’s oeuvre at the Hayward Gallery, London in October 2019.

An auction record was set for Toyin Ojih Odutola’s Selective Histories from 2016, which achieved £250,000 / $329,475 / €289,501 (est. £100,000-150,000), in her evening auction debut. The artist has received outstanding critical acclaim in recent years, participating in exhibitions at various institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. The Museum of Modern Art in New York recently acquired five of her works. Tonight’s record is one of three others set by Sotheby’s this year for Nigerian artists, alongside those for Nijideka Akunyili Crosby and Yinka Shonibare.

Louise Bourgeois’ landmark Torso, Self-Portrait (1963) achieved a strong sale result fetching £1.8 million / $2.4 million / €2.1 million (est. £1-1.5 million). The first time a work of this subject and form has been offered at auction, Torso, Self-Portrait is the only marble and freestanding iteration of this highly consequential sculpture, which started life as a wall-hanging plaster and burlap original that today resides in the MoMA collection.

Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #21 (1978) sold for £615,000 / $810,508/ €712,172 (est. £300,000-500,000), having remained in the same collection since the 1980s. Arguably the most famous image from Sherman’s film still series, the sale of the work precedes a major retrospective of the artist’s work at the National Portrait Gallery in London this June.


Adrian Ghenie’s unmitigated Duchamp’s Funeral I from 2009, exceeded its high estimate achieving £4.3 million / $5.7 million / €5 million (est. £2.5-3.5 million), four times the price it sold for at auction in 2014. The work contends with one of the artist’s most significant thematic engagements: the vast influence of Marcel Duchamp and Dadaism on the canon of art history. Ghenie is to be the subject of two major institutional shows this year.

Martin Kippenberger’s Lantern for Documenta IX – a pivotal example of the artist’s acclaimed pseudo self-portraits – sold for £2.2 million / $2.9 million / €2.5 million (est. £1.8-2.5 million) - an auction record for a sculpture by Kippenberger. Conceived in 1992 upon the occasion of Documenta IX, Kippenberger, who had not been invited to exhibit, published a poster featuring the present work installed outside the venue in a pose of exaggerated tristesse with a dropping tear; as if sad it could not be involved. Editions of the poster are held in the permanent collections at the Tate in London and MoMA, New York.

Albert Oehlen’s Die Badenden (The Bathers), the largest painting by Oehlen to have appeared at auction saw competitive bidding from 3 phone bidders, before making a splash at £2.3 million / $3 million / €2.7 million (est. £1,000,000-1,500,000).

Our sales continue tomorrow with the Contemporary Art Day Sale, with an estimate of £14.6-20.1 million / $18.3-26 million. This week’s sales follow stellar results for our Contemporary Curated sale in New York last week, which achieved $36.8 million – the highest ever total for the Sotheby’s series.


SALE TOTAL: £93,205,800 / $122,835,924 / €107,932,591 well within the pre-sale estimate of £75.5 -104.5 million / $99.5-137.8 million / €87.4-121 million

• 66 lots made up the sale – the highest number of lots in a Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s since October 2015

• 91% sold by lot

• Five works sell for over £5 million

• 80% of works make auction debut this evening

• Six collections made up 40% of lots offered, with works from The History of Now: The Collection of David Teiger, The Louis J.C. Tan Collection, The Collection of Marc Jacobs, and three collections comprising Zero art, five works by Dubuffet, and Kippenberger and Oehlen

• Chris Ofili’s Afro Love and Envy sells to a US institution for £915,000 / $1.2 million / €1.1 million (est. £500,000-700,000)

• Auction records for Adam Pendleton, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Rebecca Warren, and for a sculpture by Martin Kippenberger

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Health benefits of cucumber

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